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    Feeling uninspired with your living situation? The Live Everywhere Newsletter is here to keep you in the loop on luxury real estate & travel trends so you can live here & there

      Everything You Need to Know About Owning Land Abroad: Your Guide to the Hottest Foreign Real Estate Markets

      Too many lifelong travelers never achieve their dreams of living abroad because they’re intimidated by the laws and regulations that go into owning land abroad. If you’re an avid traveler looking to plant roots and settle down abroad, investing in foreign real estate could be the key to living your dream expatriate lifestyle. In today’s digital nomad age, it’s easier than ever to live and work abroad. Whether you’re dreaming of the white sand beaches of the Mexican Yucatan, the old-world charm of the Iberian Peninsula, or the jungle-bound hills of Panama, I can help turn your dreams into reality. Continue reading below for Everything You Need to Know About Owning Land Abroad: Your Guide to the Hottest Foreign Real Estate Markets. 

      Buying and Owning Land in Spain

      You may be relieved to hear that the Spanish government welcomes and encourages foreign investors and buyers looking to move to the Iberian Peninsula. Buying a home in Spain is relatively simple. The first thing you’ll need to secure your Spanish dream home is a Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE). Número de Identificación de Extranjero is also known as a Foreigners Identification Number, which you will need as an ex-pat for all fiscal activity in Spain. You can apply yourself to get a Número de Identificación de Extranjero or hire someone holding a Spanish Power of Attorney.

      Spain Map

      Obtaining a Spanish Visa

      Spain has one of the more successful Golden Visa Programs in Europe. The Golden Visa Program in Spain is a residence visa issued to non-EU nationals who plan to make a significant investment in the Spanish economy, like buying a home. The Golden Visa program grants the holder and their family members residency in Spain and visa-free access to the Schengen Zone. Spanish Golden Visa recipients are usually individuals who purchase real estate in Spain, however, they are also offered to foreign businessmen and women who invest in Spanish companies.

      Who Qualifies for a Spanish Golden Visa?

      To qualify for a Spanish Golden Visa, an individual must make the following investments:

      • Purchase Spanish real estate worth at least €500,000. The real estate can be a single property or several, with a total value of €500,000 or more.
      • Invest in the Spanish public debt of €2,000,000 or more.
      • Buy shares in a Spanish company or deposit in a Spanish bank at least €1,000,000.
      • Invest in a new Spanish business that offers employment opportunities, contributes to innovation in science/ technology, or has a significant socio-economic impact in the area.

      In addition to the investment requirements, you must also fulfill the following

      • Applicants must be of legal age (+18 years old).
      • Applicants must have no criminal records.
      • Applicants must not have been refused a Schengen Visa in the past.
      • Applicants must have health insurance in Spain.

      Due to the substantial investment requirements, potential applicants should consult a professional in the investment and immigration fields to determine potential eligibility. La Vida is a consultant agency with experience in immigration law and international investment. They frequently help foreign investors obtain Spanish visas.

      Benefits of a Spanish Golden Visa

      Thanks to the Schengen agreement, Spanish residents and citizens can travel visa-free to all parts of the Schengen Zone for up to three months in six months. Additionally, you do not have to live in Spain to renew your residency permit. Spouses, children, and dependent parents may all be included in the residency program. Residents and their families will have access to Spanish public services such as state health care and public schooling.

      How to Avoid Common Mistakes when Buying Land in Spain

      Due to the high demand for Spanish land, several scams have emerged in the real estate investment space. As a foreign buyer, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your deal is legitimate.

      • Check the Registro de la Propriedad, AKA the Land Registry to be sure your desired property is listed.
      • Be sure that all necessary planning permissions have been acquired before building.
      • Research any debts associated with your desired property.
      • Confirm the credential of the lawyers and real estate agents you plan to work with.
      • Have a surveyor or architect check that the property is up to code

      Taxes & Costs Associated with Buying Land in Spain

      In Spain, there are no standard fees for real estate agents. Everything is negotiable. Additional costs, such as registration and legal fees, differ by region. As a foreign buyer, most of the cost falls onto you. These costs include:

      • The Property Transfer Tax- Usually 6-10% for existing properties.
      • VAT or IVA- 10% for most new properties.
      • Notary Costs, Land Registration Fee, and Title Deed Tax- Usually 1-2.5% of the purchase price.
      • Legal Fees- Usually 1-2% of the purchase price.

      Buying and Owning Land in Panama

      As an expatriate destination, Panama has it all—cheap land, low cost of living, a bustling capital, stunning beaches, and some of the best coffee in the world. Additionally, Panama uses the US dollar as its official currency, making transactions simple and easy. Panama has over a dozen laws designed specifically to protect foreign investors, and foreigners can enjoy the same property rights as Panamanians. Foreign investors can choose luxury mountain retreats, high-rise condos in Panama City, dreamy beach houses, and more.
      Panama City

      Panamanian Visa Requirements

      There are two different options for expatriates looking to move to Panama when it comes to obtaining a visa and establishing residency, the newly formed Digital Nomad Visa and Permanent Residency.

      The Digital Nomad Visa was created in response to the changes in working patterns after the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly formed visa allows remote workers from abroad to reside in Panama for 9 months with the option to extend this for an additional 9 months. Applicants for Panama’s Digital Nomad Visa must:

      1. Have valid health insurance for the duration of their stay in Panama.
      2. Provide proof of their employment.
      3. Provide a letter issued by the legal representative of the company detailing the applicant’s position, monthly income, and remote work status, with a commitment to assume the expenses of return or repatriation if this becomes necessary. Self-employed applicants must provide a sworn declaration instead of the letter, with additional supporting documentation.

      Permanent Residency in Panama can be established through two means, apply through the Friendly Nations visa program or the Qualified Investor program. The ‘Friendly Nations’ program offers residency to citizens of qualifying nations, if they make a real estate investment of $200,000. A Qualified Investor can obtain residency through one of three investment routes:

      1. A real estate investment of $500,000
      2. A stock exchange investment of $500,000
      3. A fixed-term banking deposit of $750,000

      How to Buy Land in Panama

      After finding your dream Panama property, you’ll need to find a qualified attorney in Panama to deal with the title and necessary paperwork. There are two types of properties in Panama, Titled (ownership with a deed) and “Rights of Possession” (ROP). The process for buying both types of properties differs, so it helps to work with local experts.

      Titled Panamanian Real Estate

      By far the safest way to buy and own land in Panama is by creating a deed with the Panamanian government’s Public Registry in your name or the name of an entity owned by you. A recorded deed makes lenders feel secure with loaning money to purchase titled property with a mortgage secured by recording a lien on the property.

      • Step 1- Negotiate with the seller and your real estate agent until you come to an agreed-upon price and terms. Then hire a Panamanian lawyer to prepare a written purchase contract using the agreed-upon terms.
      • Step 2- Create and sign a “Promise to Purchase” Contract. In Panamanian real estate, the buyer promises to purchase with a formal written contract that includes a small down payment and is signed by all parties involved. The property is then held to give the buyer time to research the conditions of the property and the seller. The contract must be registered with the government’s Public Registry.
      • Step 3- Search the Title: Using a Panamanian attorney, go through the Public Registry Records to confirm the seller is the true owner of your desired property. The lawyer with also research any liens on the property. Afterward, hire a surveyor to confirm the property’s boundaries.
      • Step 4- Create a Buy and Sell Agreement. Once the buyer is ready to purchase, this contract serves as the deed. An escrow agent can be hired to hold the funds and make the final payment and file the title transfer deed at the Public Registry.
      • Step 5- Transfer the Title. Close the sale by transferring the title to the buyer’s name. This is one when the Buy-Sell Contract is recorded with the Public Registry.

      Rights of Possession (ROP)

      Much of Panama’s available real estate is government-owned land known as “Rights of Possession.” Rights of Possession land is owned by the government, but the government allows a person or entity to possess and improve the land. The ROP can be passed onto future generations and sold to third parties; foreigners included.

      An ROP is a document that certifies possession rights of a particular government property and can be issued by municipal mayors, sheriffs, or governmental agencies. Because ROPs are technically government-owned, they are exempt from property taxes. However, building on an ROP can subject the ROP to property taxes once the improvements are registered. ROPs cannot be mortgages because they are owned by the government.

      The Public Registry only records title deeds, not ROPs. So, there is no central database for Rights of Possession land, which often leads to conflicts between two parties claiming to have possession of the same ROP. There are two types of Rights of Possession properties in Panama. Most beaches, islands, and marine floors up to 200 meters from the high tide line are government property. Land used for agriculture is also owned by the government.

      Buying and Owning Land in Mexico

      Mexico is one of the most popular expatriate destinations for Americans, with over 1.5 million expatriate Americans calling Mexico home. Just over the southern border, lies a world of wonder with tropical beaches, lush mountains, vibrant cities, and some of the best food in the world.

      While it wasn’t always the case, owning land in Mexico is now relatively simple for Americans. Owning beachfront land in Mexico was originally forbidden under the Foreign Investment Law, which stated that foreigners may not own land within 64 miles of an international border or 32 miles from the coastline. In 1993, the Foreign Investment Law was amended to allow foreigners to own and invest in land, both near borders and on the coast.

      In my last blog, Everything You Need To Know About Owning Property In Mexico, I discuss the details of what aspiring expats should consider before buying the ticket and taking the ride.

      Mexico Map

      Mexico Visa Requirements

      Establishing residency in Mexico is easier than you may think. Foreign nationals can establish residency in Mexico through several avenues, including scientific research, economic solvency, real estate investment, education, and marriage. For most expatriates, real estate investment is the logical route. Temporary Residency permits are issued for 1 year at a time but are renewable annually for an additional 3 years. Temporary Residents may apply for Permanent Residency if he or she has continuously resided in the country for 4 years. After 5 years of residency, a resident may be eligible to receive Mexican naturalization.

      How to Buy Land in Mexico Near the Border or Coast

      Owning land in Mexico may no longer be restricted, but it still requires special permission from the government. To own land in Mexico, a foreigner must acquire a fideicomiso. A fideicomiso is a bank trust that allows foreigners to legally buy land in areas near the coast and national borders. A fideicomiso gives foreigners indirect ownership of restricted land through a trustee. In a fideicomiso, the trustee is the legal owner of the land, but the beneficiary of the trust maintains all rights to sell, lease, or pass on the land. One benefit of the fideicomiso system is that foreigners can pass land to their heirs without needing a Mexican will.

      Buying Land in Mexico

      Finding a reliable real estate agent to work in a foreign country can be challenging. You’ll want to find someone who understands both US and Mexican markets and has local connections and expert-level knowledge. I’ll help you to find the perfect location for your dream home, whether that’s Tulum, Merida, Playa Del Carmen, or elsewhere.

      Formalize Your Paperwork

      Next, we will create a sales contract to document the terms and conditions of the sale. Sales contracts differ slightly by location, and the official document is always in Spanish.

      Once the sales contract is in place, it’s time to place the down payment. This initial deposit will secure your piece of Mexican real estate and begin to finalize the purchase of your dream home.

      As stated above, a fideicomiso is required if you are purchasing land within 64 miles of an international border or 32 miles from the shore. You can either create a fideicomiso or have a previous fideicomiso transferred to your name. Fideicomiso instructions last for 50 years, so be sure to check how long an existing fideicomiso is valid before transferring it to your name.

      Finalize the Purchase

      Using a notary, seek permission to complete the purchase and sign an agreement that states you’ll be bound by Mexican law in all real estate dealings. The escritura becomes your title to the property once the purchase is finalized and all outstanding costs have been paid. Your legal rights to your new home and land will be registered three months after closing the deal.

      In Conclusion

      The vision of living overseas is exciting and may feel daunting. I’ll be right there with you to find the right situation and location for you. Visit my website to browse properties and destinations. I’d love to help you find your dream home.


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