Who can buy a property in the UK

You can still buy a property in the UK even if you’re not a UK citizen or are living and working abroad.

This includes if you are:

  • an EU citizen

  • a non EU citizen

  • living and working abroad as an expat

  • a skilled worker living in the UK on a tier 2 visa

  • a foreign national 

If you need a loan to buy your home you will need to apply for a mortgage. 

Getting a mortgage in the UK can be harder and more expensive for non UK residents. This is because it’s harder to prove to lenders that you can pay the monthly mortgage payments. 

It’s easier to get a mortgage if you have:

  • been a UK resident for at least 2 years

  • a permanent job

  • a UK bank account

  • a good UK credit history

You may need a larger deposit if you do not meet these requirements. Often around 25% of the property value.¹ 

If you’re an expat living and working abroad you could still buy a property in the UK. There are specialist lenders and international services that may be able to help.

You may be able to get a mortgage if you’re an EU citizen buying a property in the UK.

You can get a mortgage in the UK as an EU citizen if you have:

  • a traceable credit history

  • lived in the EU for more than 3 years

  • a UK bank account

  • a permanent job in the UK

Registering to vote will also help.

If you’re not from the UK or EU, it will be harder to get a mortgage on a UK property. 

Different lenders have different requirements about who they’ll offer a mortgage to. 

To get a mortgage, most lenders will need you to have at least one of the following:

  • a valid UK work permit 

  • a visa such as a family visa, a tier 1 or tier 2 visa

  • permanent residency in the UK

  • a permanent job in the UK

  • a UK bank account

You’re more likely to get a mortgage if you’ve got at least 2 years left on your visa.

You could get a joint mortgage if one of the applicants is a UK national. You may have fewer deals to choose from as only certain lenders offer these mortgages. 

Speaking to a mortgage broker can help you find a lender that will consider your situation.

Buying a home in the UK

To buy a home in the UK:

  1. find a UK mortgage broker or lender who deals with non UK residents or UK citizens abroad

  2. find the property you want to buy 

  3. make an offer

  4. find a UK conveyancer or solicitor who will handle the legal side of things

  5. pay your deposit

  6. get a survey done

  7. agree the date you’ll get the keys and move in (your conveyancer or solicitor will agree this with the seller)

Mortgage lenders for non-UK residents

Most UK lenders do not lend to non UK residents so you will have fewer mortgage options. 

Specialist lenders and international banks may be able to help you get a mortgage on a UK property. 

Lenders will consider your age, income, job security and credit score

You’re more likely to get a mortgage as a non UK resident from lenders such as:

  • HSBC - offers mortgages for expats

  • Barclays - offers mortgages to investors outside the UK

  • NatWest - offers mortgages to people living in specific countries outside the UK

  • Skipton International - offers buy to let mortgages for expats

Getting credit history in the UK

You can increase your chances of getting a UK mortgage by having a good credit score.

Credit history is country specific. This means it’s only relevant to the country where you took out that credit. So if you visit the UK you'll have no credit history there.

To improve your chances of getting a mortgage:

  • keep a credit card account open. Using a UK credit card when visiting the UK can help

  • register a UK bank account to a family or friend’s UK address

It is possible to get a mortgage without a credit history but there will be fewer options for you. It may mean you get a mortgage with a higher interest rate and need to put down a bigger deposit. 

Buying a house in the UK from abroad after Brexit

It could be a good time to buy a home in the UK with an overseas mortgage. 

Since Brexit, the pound has dropped in value. It has since gone up in value but it’s still lower than it was at the start of Brexit. 

This means you can get more for your money if you have a salary in a different currency.

The average house price in London rose 3.5% between August 2019 to August 2020.³

The UK average house prices increased 8.9% over the year to April 2021, down from 9.9% in March 2021.

There’s been a lot of expat activity since Brexit, especially from the USA and the United Arab Emirates.⁴

Expat mortgages

An expat is someone who’s left their country of birth to live and work elsewhere.

It can often be someone considered a professional who has moved abroad for work.

You can get a mortgage in the UK if you’re an expat. 

Owning a home in the UK can offer you a safety net if you return to the UK. It can also help if you’re worried about house prices going up while you’re away. 

Many lenders consider expats low risk. So you’re more likely to be able to get a mortgage with similar terms to someone in the UK with a good credit score.

To get a mortgage, you’ll need:

  • at least a 5% deposit

  • to pass your lender’s affordability checks

Some lenders will also ask to see a UK passport and your UK bank account details.

Many expats get buy to let mortgages. There are more buy to lets than residential mortgages on offer to expats.

As an expat you can take out:

  • a mortgage for you or someone like a family member to live in

  • a buy to let mortgage if you want to rent it out

  • an onshore mortgage - for expats who have lived in the UK before

  • an offshore mortgage - for expats who cannot get an onshore mortgage. These often have bank arrangement fees of 1%

There are some UK lenders that provide mortgages to expats. 

Often lenders who offer expat mortgages are not based in the UK. 

Some building societies also offer expat mortgages. 

These include:

  • Mansfield

  • Cambridge

  • Tipton

Fewer societies lend in Scotland so it can be easier to buy in England and Wales. 

If you have a high net worth, private banks like Investec can also help you. 

We do not yet offer mortgages for people outside of the UK.

You can speak to a mortgage adviser if you need more help, especially if you’re self employed.

It’s best to keep your payments in the currency you’re paid in. This protects you from changes to the exchange rate.

Not all lenders will accept foreign currency. 

Some may agree to fix your rate at an agreed exchange rate for a set time. Speak to a mortgage adviser for help on what to do.

Those that do will do a stress test. A stress test is a way to manage risk if the exchange rate goes up or down. 

Lenders usually stress test against the currency losing 20% of its value. 

So if you earn €100,000 they’ll accept 80% of your salary when deciding how much you can afford to repay.

This can affect how much you can borrow.

More about UK mortgages

If you’re buying a home in the UK you might want to know more about:

Sources

¹ The Mortgage Hut: Mortgages for non-UK citizens

² Office for National Statistics: UK House Price Index - May 2019 and April 2021

³ GOV.UK: UK House Price Index summary: August 2020

⁴ Telegraph: British expats - how easy is it to get a mortgage in the UK?

⁵ Emigrate.co.uk: UK expats and residents in UAE targeting London again as property prices fall

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