If you decide to go ahead, enlist a broker who specializes in the country you’re considering. To find one, start at worldproperties.org, the website of the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations. That person can connect you with lawyers and tax professionals, help you find a property, advise you about the region and assist you with financing options. Finally, the broker can point you toward any tax breaks and other incentives offered by host countries to encourage investment.
And don’t sign on the bottom line without investigating the cost of living. Suzy Gershman, author of the Born to Shop guides, got burned that way. She bought a house in Provence for $100,000 and paid it off. Then, bam, the cost of a rotisserie chicken went from $6 to $20 (because of price increases as well as changes in the value of the euro). Utility prices jumped as well. “People keep saying to me, ‘How can you sell a house in France that’s paid for?’ ” she says. “But currency fluctuations and the cost of living can do you in—especially if you’re talking about a retirement budget.” To figure out how far your money will go in cities worldwide, try the cost-of-living calculator at easyexpat.com. There you can see that you’d need to earn $157,359 in Milan and $196,653 in Tokyo to live as well as you could on $150,000 in San Francisco. But you’d have to bring in only $85,713 in Mumbai.
Originally published in the November 2010 issue of More. Read more of Jean Chatzky's columns here.