Can I Get A Mortgage If I'm An Expat?
15th June 2017
Getting a mortgage if you’re an expat is possible, but like getting a mortgage in the UK, there are a few conditions you need to meet. Having a UK credit history is helpful, but it’s not compulsory. Whatever your position, using a mortgage broker is a good idea as some situations can be tricky and it’s important to make sure you’re paying what you should be.
Some lenders have mortgages available for those who have either never lived in the UK, or haven’t lived there for a number of years, so getting a mortgage if you’re an expat is a possibility. Often, these lenders aren’t based in the UK, but some UK banks offer mortgages for expats too.
Why buy in the UK?
Buying a property in the UK can be an attractive option if you live abroad. For some, it’s an opportunity to make an investment that provides regular rent income. For others, owning a home to come back to offers stability. For expats concerned about rising house prices and being priced out of the market upon their return, buying a property could ensure a way in.
Is buying in the UK as an expat easy?
If you’re considering buying in the UK and live abroad, there’s good news. Even though living abroad makes it harder to chase debts, lenders still consider most expats low risk when it comes to lending. Because expats are largely viewed as low risk, it means they’re often able to get a mortgage on a UK property with similar terms as someone living in the UK with a good credit score.
However, there are some conditions you can expect to apply, although these are similar to those applying for mortgages in the UK.
You’ll usually need at least a 5% deposit to be accepted for a mortgage, and you’ll have to pass your lender’s affordability checks. Some lenders will also ask to see a UK passport and details of your UK bank account.
Type of mortgage
Buy-to-let or residential mortgages
Most expats buying in the UK are buying-to-let. Buy-to-let mortgages are regulated differently to residential mortgages, and for expats, there are more buy-to-let mortgages on offer than residential.
Onshore and offshore mortgages
Expats who’ve lived in the UK at some point may be able to get an onshore mortgage (from a UK lender), and therefore have access to more competitive mortgage deals.
Offshore mortgages are suitable for expats unable to get a mortgage onshore, and make owning property in the UK possible. However, they often have bank arrangement fees of 1%, making onshore banks a more attractive option.
Before you apply for a mortgage
Check your credit score
Before you apply for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to check your credit score and send it to your mortgage broker. They’ll be able to flag any issues and advise you of the most suitable deals for your circumstances. You can check your score online at Experian, Equifax, or Callcredit.
If you don’t have a UK credit history, you can still run an Experian or Equifax report as it’s likely you’ll still have details from the past, although this depends on how long you’ve been away.
Getting a mortgage as an expat
Do you need a UK credit history?
Having a UK credit history is helpful if you want to secure a competitive rate; however, it’s not always compulsory.
If you’ve lived in the UK at some point in the last three years then getting a mortgage can be harder. This is because lenders require a credit history which needs three years worth of address history. Expats who’ve lived in the UK at some point during the last three years are more likely to want to secure a more competitive deal from a UK lender rather than using an offshore lender, so having an address history becomes more important.
Keeping a registered address in the UK, such as a parent’s address, can help with improving your credit score and fulfil lenders’ credit score criteria. Having a UK credit card that you use and pay off each month can also help improve your credit score.
Offshore banks recognise that some expats haven’t lived in the UK at any point over the last three years, and a credit history often isn’t part of their criteria.
Can I get a mortgage if I’m a self-employed expat?
Getting a mortgage if you’re an expat can be more difficult if you’re self-employed, but it’s often possible. Using a mortgage broker is recommended when looking for an expat mortgage, especially if you’re self-employed.
What currency can I pay my mortgage in?
To keep your payments consistent, it’s best to pay your mortgage in the currency you’re paid in. However, not all lenders will accept foreign currency.
Some lenders may agree to fix your rate at an agreed exchange rate for a limited period of time. Your mortgage adviser will suggest the most suitable deal and recommend the best route to take.
Paying your mortgage in the currency you’re paid in helps protect you from sudden exchange rate fluctuations, which can affect the amount you pay each month - even if you’re on a fixed rate.
Where can I get an expat mortgage?
Many UK based lenders don’t offer mortgages for non-UK residents, and those that do each offer a range of different deals. A mortgage broker will compare the market and help you find a suitable lender and the most suitable deal.
_Note: We’re working towards supporting expat mortgages, but are unable to provide this service just yet. For now, we’re focusing on one thing at a time in our effort to deliver the best possible mortgage experience for everyone. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to be the first to know when we support this service.