Those buying a property abroad may have never even heard of an inspection trip. So what are they? These short breaks are centred on a location where you are interested in buying a property. An agent will subsidise the trip, be your tour guide and try to sell you a property.
Some independent experts advice against these trips, but this is mainly due to the fact that ten years ago, entire planeloads of Britons were transported to Spain or Bulgaria, where they were subjected to hard-sell techniques from commission-only agents.
But nowadays, property buyers are more savvy and agents more considerate.
France does not offer many agent-organised trips, but Siblu Villages provides taster trips to its park-style accommodation sites along the French coastline.
For this kind of area, off the beaten track, inspection visits can be invaluable at helping prospective buyers realise the potential.
Bob Shepherd, of Spanish Legal Homes, has always offered trips. He recalls: “Our first was on June 6th 1985. We offer an inclusive three to four day viewing tour to the Costa Blanca, Murcia and the Costa del Sol for £99 per person. We arrange 3/4-star ensuite hotel accommodation, all transport and main meals, plus a senior member of our local staff will show clients the various areas in detail in a relaxed and informative manner, local amenities plus other important facilities. We normally show eight to ten suitable properties a day.”
Bob explains that inspection trips are particularly important for those clients that are not internet savvy. “It’s staggering how many people do not have IT or web access,”1 he says.
Agents invest a lot of time and money into these trips, so it is vital that they determine whether a client is serious about buying abroad before they make the trip. Agents will usually ask you a series of questions before they book your flights.
Taylor Wimpey España offers inspection trips for £149 per person or £169 for a couple, but only after ensuring that buyers are ready.
The firm’s Sales and Marketing Director, Marc Pritchard, comments: “Most of our clients do plenty of homework before they get to us, normally via the internet and through contacting us. Some do buy without visiting the site at all. But that generally works when the client knows the area quite well and knows what to expect. Inspection trips are there if buyers need them.”1
Clare Coombs, of Home España, offers something similar. She explains: “We check that people are ready to buy and can get a mortgage before we organise a viewing trip. The last thing we want is for someone to fall in love with a house and then they have to go and sell theirs in the UK first, or they can’t get a mortgage, and by that time the property has gone.”
Coombs believes that inspection trips are extremely valuable: “They allow us the time to do our job properly. We give them the whole area tour on the first day and look at a couple of houses to really hone in on what style of home they like and where they want to be. Day two, we can get into the detail of the properties they really like. We look at ten to 15 over the whole trip. And hopefully on the third day, we will be doing deposit contracts and everything before they go back to the UK.”
Although this kind of trip is still quite rare, if you ask any agent if they offer a subsidised inspection trip, they will most likely say yes.
Many visits involve the clients organising their own travel and the agent offering one night’s accommodation for free with an area tour and often a nice meal. These trips can benefit buyers, as they are free to visit other agents and get a broad picture of the market in their chosen area.
Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs runs Italy’s Appassionata with her husband, Michael. She explains what her firm includes: “We always offer an inspection trip for prospective clients, which includes one night’s accommodation and dinner with the Appassionata team. Our daughter India, who works for the family business, normally meets the clients in a local café and gets to know them over a coffee or glass of Prosecco.
“She gives them a tour of the area and takes them to view the property. Michael and I then normally meet up with the clients for lunch or dinner and have a more in-depth discussion about the benefits of fractional ownership and the region of Le Marche.
“We never put pressure on clients, we are very relaxed and friendly, open and honest, and make an effort to get to know them, their family and interests. Most of our owners become good friends.”1
Coombs reiterates: “One day usually isn’t enough; we find it much better to really get to know the client so that, as British people living here ourselves, we can properly advise them.”1
How does a subsidised visit with friendly British advice sound? If you are interested in an inspection trip, here are our top tips to making it a success:
- Establish what the trip will involve and what the agent expects before booking.
- Ask whether the itinerary meets your needs. If it doesn’t, you may be best to organise something yourself.
- If you need a second opinion in making decisions, take a friend or relative along.
- Have a list of questions with you – ask about everything that’s important to you, whether that be transport, the rental market or schools.
- Make lots of notes and take photographs so that you remember all the different properties when you get home.
- Don’t get carried away – it can be easy to get excited when you’re overseas in a pleasant area, but always remain level-headed.
- Don’t be pressured into making a decision as soon as you’re back home – have a cooling off period to reflect the trip.