After moving to many new towns and cities in foreign countries all over the world, we have become experts on finding housing for our family of five and big dog. Oh and for my mom who always comes with us and lives close by!

Every time we move to a new city or country we need to find a house that works for our big family, as well as a nearby location for my mom. Needless to say we have had our work cut out for us as finding two houses requires a lot of time and effort! Throughout the years, and in the course of our nomadic and international life, we have had to safely navigate multiple legal contracts, find suitable communities and create homes in unfamiliar settings and new environments around the globe.

We have not only purchased homes in foreign markets, but leased multiple houses as well. We have found ourselves in dreamy beach front condos, sprawling country houses and noisy flats in the middle of city centers.

Throughout this journey we have learned some valuable tips and tricks that we love to share with people as they go about finding housing of their own in a new and unfamiliar country and location.

Regardless if you are looking to buy or rent a home, the following list provides ideas and guidance on how to find yourself the perfect spot to start your new life abroad!

Here are helpful tips that will undoubtedly make your house hunting go much smoother and pointers that we have found beneficial when looking for new housing after moving abroad.

Tiny Mallorca apartment with an insane view

Research the Housing Market Before You Start

Before you dive into looking at specific homes to rent or buy, it is helpful to first research the real estate market in the areas you are considering. Getting a general idea of the market and understanding some of the specific details that relate to the local housing market will help you immensely as you begin your search. You want to make sure you are aware of the overall health and state of the housing market before you consider moving permanently in that location.

Things to understand and research about the local housing market are…

  • The average rental prices

  • The average home purchase prices

  • The state of the housing market. Is there a shortage or a surplus that is affecting availability and prices? Is there available housing or is inventory tight? What have the recent trends in the local housing market been?

  • Understand local renting laws, such as long and short term rentals and the rules regarding vacation rentals.

  • Specific requirements for foreigners and how that could affect your contract and responsibilities.

Doing some research on the housing market can in some cases influence where you decide to live. It also allows you to understand critical factors that relate to housing, economics and the community you are interested in.

In some situations we have changed our minds about looking to buy or rent in a particular location due to factors relating to the general housing market in that area. So make sure you do a bit of due diligence before you settle on that location.

Once you understand some of the basic, but critical factors that make up the real estate market in your new location you can begin to narrow down and get specific in your search.

Explore and Utilize Online Housing Platforms

  • Research the most popular local real estate platforms for your region and explore the listings available. It is a good idea to look at both homes for sale and rent, in order to better understand the market and availability. You can usually do a quick google search to find the most popular housing platforms in a particular city or country.

  • Look up local real estate websites and examine their listings. By doing this you will be able to compare and contrast what is available and the trends in that location. There are often listings available that you won’t find on some of the more popular sites as well.

  • Browse other popular platforms such as Booking.com, Airbnb.com and VRBO.com to learn about the rental market, pricing and availability in the short term rental sector.

  • Reach out to several listings to make sure they are actually still available, as many sites will put listings as bait and can mislead you about the inventory.

Participate and Engage with Local Community or Expat Groups

  • Locals are a great source of information when gathering data about housing, rentals and purchasing a home. These groups have hands- on and first hand experience in your desired location. They may have leads or connections to not only listings, but brokers and agents as well.

  • Join online expat forums such as Facebook or Reddit, as they often share relevant listings and housing information.

  • Join Community websites specific to your destination where the members share their experience and provide personal recommendations for housing and real estate.

  • Ask questions, seek advice and inquire about your specific housing needs, as someone might know of an available listing or have a house that could work for your needs.

Reach out to Local Real Estate Agents

  • Connect with a local real estate agent who can help you with your search. Regardless if you are buying or leasing these agents often receive a commission to help sell or lease the house and may be helpful in your search. Just make sure you don’t sign an exclusivity agreement as you might find a house on your own or with another realtor.

  • Look for reputable and experienced agents with reviews

  • Reach out with details about your budget, desired area, requirements and any other questions

  • Ask them about referrals for mortgage lenders if pursuing a mortgage

  • If you are planning a visit arrange viewings in advance

  • In some cases ask them to do a tour via video or FaceTime if you are unable to see it in person. We have done this several times and it was extremely helpful. In addition to a live tour of the house, be sure to ask for a look at the neighborhood, street and proximity to neighbors. On one occasion there was a massive building project across the street from our potential rental that made us decide against renting in that area.

Consider Short Term Housing Options

  • We alway suggest renting in an area before you buy, and in many cases we suggest renting in a short term stay even before you lease long term. You don’t really understand a location or area until you live there for a while and it’s a good idea to get to know an area before you make a long term commitment. In many cases we thought we wanted to be in a particular neighborhood, but after spending some time there we realized a different location suited our family better.

  • Reach out to places like www.VRBO.com, www.Airbnb.com, and www.Booking.com to see about available options.

  • Be sure to negotiate when you are inquiring about longer terms in short term rentals. Owners of short term rentals are often willing to reduce the nightly price, particularly in the low season for longer term arrangements.

Location, Location, Location

  • Consider the location of your new home before buying or renting.

  • Some say location can be more important than the house itself, so be sure to really think about how you live and the way this impacts the house you want. Consider lifestyle, way of life and daily needs before renting or buying. Do you dream of being more remote, but realize you actually need to be more central based on your job? Or would you rather be in a more urban setting with access to entertainment, restaurants and other amenities.

  • If needing schools for your children be sure to factor that into the location. Do the neighborhoods you are considering have good schools? Can you walk to school or does it require a drive? Does this factor in to your day to day lifestyle and if so does it work for you and your family.

Use a Relocation Service

  • Consider reaching out to a relocation service or expert in your desired area.  These companies or individuals often have previous experience helping with relocating foreigners and can assist with all aspects of a move.  They also likely know other expats, realtors and have additional helpful information pertaining to the housing market.

Understand Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities

  • Make sure you thoroughly understand the lease or purchase agreement and laws.

  • Make sure you understand the legalities around the deposit, giving notice, improvements, rent increases and other issues contained within the contract.

  • Make sure you confirm that the agency or agent is reputable and ask for a list of references.

  • Seek the counsel of a local attorney to help advocate for you and look over the documents before you sign. This is especially true if you are engaging in a transaction that is in a foreign language.

In Conclusion…

House hunting abroad can often be a stressful undertaking.  As digital nomads with kids, pets and a grandma in tow, we have had our fair share of adventures, both good and bad, while trying to find housing all over the world.

We have spent countless hours researching international real estate markets, scouring listings and touring houses in locations from Bali to the South of France. We always involve our kids in the process and it has been an education in itself, and they have learned invaluable lessons about real estate, legalities and locations through the process.

Try to see it as an adventure and exciting experience, and trust that you will end up in the right spot. On more than one occasion we have ended up with houses that were not ideal, but we try to take the good with the bad and learn with each experience. You learn about yourself and the world around you when you live for an extended period of time in a new location and home environment.

It is important to stay flexible, open minded and realize that it is a great adventure and part of the fun when living abroad.

By following the steps above you are sure to have success and find a wonderful new home abroad.

Happy house hunting!

Share the Post: