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Selling a UK property from abroad
House selling tips
08 October 2020

Selling a UK property from abroad

Rosie Hamilton
Writer & Researcher

The actual process of selling your home in the UK from abroad is not that different from selling a home whilst you're in the UK. With the right team in place, it should all go very smoothly. And, you don’t even need to return to the UK.

The main thing to take into account are the tax implications. How you've used the property whilst you’ve lived abroad will impact the amount of Capital Gains Tax you’ll need to pay when you sell your UK property. You’ll also need to take into account the tax laws of the country you’re currently living in too.

If you’re considering selling your UK residential property from abroad, these are some of the things you’ll need to bear in mind:

Pick an estate agent you can trust

Every home selling journey begins with deciding which estate agent to use. When you’re selling a property in a country you don’t currently live, making the right choice is even more important.

It might be tempting to use an online estate agent when you’re not in the country. They’re cheap and seem more technologically capable than your traditional high street agent.

However, most online agents don’t currently have the logistical capacity or local knowledge necessary to handle a long distance property sale - let alone get you the best price for your home.

Local high street estate agents are likely to already have a database of interested buyers already registered with them, and they’re able to use their local knowledge to sell the unique location and features of your specific home. On top of this, because they’re so involved in your local property market they are able to give a more accurate valuation of your home.

Wondering what an estate agent actually does when they value your home? Read more about agent valuations here.

High street estate agents also include the handling of home viewings on your behalf, as standard, so you won’t have to worry about not being in the country. Online agents are more likely to charge extra for the service, or outsource to a viewings company, giving you less control.

Unsure who the best agents in the area are? This free, data-driven comparison tool analyses the performance of all the agents in a particular area and provides you with a list of the top performers in categories such as 'fastest sale', or 'best valuer'. Just pop in the property postcode. Head there now.

Make sure your conveyancer can communicate

Many home sellers find the conveyancing process the most frustrating part of selling. A lot relies on the communication of your solicitor with all the relevant parties. And this is even more important when you’re not resident in the UK, and unable to actually visit the lawyer’s office or regularly call them.

Conveyancers have a reputation for being quite old fashioned, and many still use phone calls as their primary method of communication. When you pick who to work with, bear this in mind. Be upfront with your expectation to communicate via email, or other methods of online communication, and be honest about how often you want to hear from them with updates.

Don't be embarrassed about being forward with your needs. You're paying them a lot of money to handle the key parts of your sale - you need to know that they will deal with it effectively. It's important you take the time to compare a few companies and see who you’ll feel most comfortable working with.

Online reviews will also provide vital insight into a conveyancer’s capacity to handle cases. For example, our research into Premier Property Lawyers, found that although they are technically the largest conveyancing firm in the UK - and tout their use of technology - many of those who use their services are left incredibly unsatisfied.

Read the full investigation here.

Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax is a tax on any profit (a.k.a gain) made from the sale of a property or an investment. In the UK you have to pay Capital Gains Tax whenever you sell any property that isn’t your primary residence.

If you’re living abroad, you still have to pay tax on gains you make on property in the UK even if you’re a non UK resident for tax purposes. The main difference to remember is: if you’re a resident you have to pay UK tax on both your UK and foreign gains. Non residents only pay Capital Gains Tax on your UK property or land (though you may be liable to pay tax in the country you reside in, so check the rules there carefully).

The amount of Capital Gain Tax you’ll have to pay is also affected by how you’ve used the property whilst you’ve been away. For example, you usually don’t have to pay any CGT for the tax years in which you, or your spouse or civil partner, spent at least 90 days in the property. And, if you’ve used any part of the property for solely business purposes, this will also change the calculation.

The most important rule to remember is that you need to file a capital gains tax return within 30 days of the completion of your property sale - even if no tax is due - or you will face a fine. If you do need to pay any tax, this will also be due within 30 days of the completion of your house sale.

Local liabilities

When you’re selling your UK property, don’t forget to take into account the tax rules of the country where you’re currently in residence - particularly if you’re legally classed as a resident there. However, in some countries you can get some tax relief through an option to offset any UK tax liability with the local liability.

If you’re unsure, make sure to seek independent financial advice about the amount of capital gains tax due both to HMRC in the UK, and to the country you currently reside in. Getting an in-depth view of the tax rules may end up saving you a huge amount when you sell.

Ready to sell your UK property? Finding an estate agent is the first step. Compare the best agents near your property now.

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