Updated: April 01, 2022

UK Expat Mortgages

Looking for an expat mortgage in the UK? It can be done! Find out typical rates, the main lenders and exactly how to get one in our expert guide.

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Expert

Updated: April 01, 2022

If you’re an expat living abroad, or based in the UK and want to buy a property overseas, it’s possible to get a mortgage for this purpose. With only a finite number of lenders available, it’s important to have an expert on hand to guide you through the process.

Whether you’re living abroad and looking to remortgage an existing home here in the UK, buy a future home in the country where you reside or take advantage of an investment opportunity, this guide will explain all the necessary steps you need to take

What is an expat mortgage?

An expat mortgage is any home loan taken out in your native country, that is used to buy a property either in your home country (UK), or the one you’ve emigrated to (or are about to). An example might be a UK national living in Cyprus that wants to purchase a UK-based home to return to.

Whilst finance is available for this purpose, there are very few lenders who will consider this type of application. Other than having stricter eligibility requirements, they work in the same way as any other mortgage, in the sense that they are secured on the property, and you borrow over a defined term. It’s also possible to find lenders that offer both repayment and interest-only options, depending on the mortgage purpose.

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Who qualifies?

This type of lending is often bespoke to the individual’s circumstances, but expats are generally considered to be higher risk borrowers by all lenders, due to the potential uncertainty around their employment status whilst living abroad, and (lack of) knowledge of the local property market where they reside.

Criteria can vary dramatically from one lender to the next, so narrowing down the exact one that will work for you can be quite difficult, without the advice of an expert.

Challenges of buying a home as an expat

Due to the wide range of permutations for someone living overseas, it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive list without knowing your individual circumstances. That said, some of the potential issues to be aware of are:

  • Fewer lenders available – in an already narrow market, there are a plethora of elements that can further impact lender availability, including your country of residence, income and the type of mortgage you need
  • Income denomination – if you’re not paid in £GBP, and particularly if you are paid in multiple currencies, the application process can be incredibly complex, and not many lenders will have the expertise necessary to assess your income
  • Currency fluctuations – If you’re paid in a different currency to that of your mortgage, currency fluctuations can substantially impact the cost of your payments
  • Identity checks are stricter – It can be harder to prove your identity as a non-UK resident, and it may be essential to return to the UK to meet a lender in person in order to do so. This is more likely to be the case if you are a high net worth client
  • Blacklisted country residents – If you live in a country that is synonymous with money laundering activities, and especially corruption, many lenders may automatically refuse your application
  • Taxation – You may be liable to pay taxes in the UK (CGT, IHT) and your country of residence under some circumstances, depending on the mortgage type
  • Language barriers – If you live in a country where English is not the first language, UK lenders will need all documentation translated, making the application more labour intensive, and leaving the potential for miscommunications
  • Your Credit Status – Unfortunately your credit score is not international. This means that even if you had an excellent score in the UK, the longer you’ve lived abroad, the less it will help.
  • Economic uncertainty in your country of residence – Lenders will be more cautious when it comes to assessing non-UK income, as they are unlikely to have substantial financial knowledge of your current country of residence

How to get a mortgage if you’re an expat

1. Save a substantial deposit – regardless of the mortgage type or purpose, a larger deposit can tip the scales in your favour with the lender, as well as provide you access to more competitive rates. *Also see the deposit section below about potential deposit restrictions.

2. Speak to an expert expat mortgage broker – In such a niche area of lending, finding the right type of expert at the outset can significantly improve your chances of successfully securing a mortgage. If you are self-employed, retired, have bad credit, or are returning to the UK, and unable to prove a fixed UK address for the past three years, it is not recommended that you proceed before seeking expert guidance.

Specialist expat brokers have strong relationships with the type of lenders who will consider your application, some of whom will only be accessible through an intermediary. They also know which lenders offer loans to those living in your current country of residence, as well as having an enhanced knowledge of potentially complex income types, such as foreign or multiple-currency income, offshore investments or trusts.

Speaking to an expat mortgage expert early on in the application process will arm you with all the knowledge you need in order to gather the required information and optimise your application. We work with a broad network of expert brokers, and through our free broker matching service, can quickly find the most appropriate expat broker for your needs.

If you get in touch we can arrange for a broker with experience dealing with mortgages for expats to contact you directly.

3. Prepare your information – For this type of mortgage application, you will generally need to go further to persuade lenders that you are a safe bet. Gathering as much information about your income (including currency and conversions if applicable), assets, your purpose of buying in the UK (including rental projection for buy-to-let), will put you in the best position.

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Typical criteria

There are usually a number of additional requirements when applying for a mortgage as an expat, so approaching the right lender is absolutely essential to your success. Some common criteria include:

  • ID – Whilst a passport and proof of address is needed for any mortgage application, expats may additionally need to provide proof of residency for the country in which they currently reside. It’s also possible that addresses will be verbally checked with your employer or accountant.
  • Affordability – You will need to ensure that the lender you approach accepts the currency that you’re paid in. Some lenders only consider UK income. If you are paid in another currency, US dollars, for example, a number of lenders will consider you, but may limit the LTV (loan to value).
  • Credit status – some lenders will only consider borrowers with a UK credit score, which can make it difficult for those borrowers who have no remaining financial ties to the UK
  • Length of time as a non-resident – Some lenders will only consider those who have lived outside of the UK for less than 2 years
  • Mortgage type – Some lenders exclusively offer  buy-to-let mortgages to expats, and others exclusively residential, so the purpose of your purchase will have a huge impact on which lender you approach

Deposit requirement

This varies from one lender to the next, and depending on the type of mortgage you need, although a minimum of 20% is a typical requirement for residential and 40% for buy-to-let.

Mortgage deposits in the UK will always be subject to checks in line with anti money laundering regulations, however, due to a greater vulnerability to fraud, these checks will be more stringent in the case of international funds. It’s therefore strongly advisable to hold onto any evidence that can prove the legitimacy of your deposit origin.

Furthermore, some lenders will only accept deposits with a UK origin, which can be difficult if all of your investments are offshore, and will narrow down the pool of lenders available to you even further.

Proving your income

Some lenders only accept income that is deposited into a UK bank account, so your choice of lenders may be narrower if that’s not the case. Either way, 3-6 months of payslips is a typical requirement for proof of employment. If your employer is based abroad, then this can also be less attractive to lenders, as it will be more difficult for them to ascertain the stability of your job.

If you’re self-employed you will likely need to have your accounts signed off by an internationally recognised accountant for them to be accepted. For those with a brief trading history (less than two years), it’s likely you will need to include future income projections and a thorough business plan to cover the gap in accounting.

Types of mortgages available

There are a number of reasons that you may wish to take out a UK mortgage as an expat, depending on your intended use of the property and where it is. The following types of mortgage may be available to you:

UK standard residential mortgage

If you live outside the UK, but plan to return or buy a property for family still in the UK, it’s possible to get an owner-occupier mortgage in the UK for these purposes. They work in exactly the same way as a standard residential mortgage would for residents, however, interest rates are likely to be higher.

Buy-to-let in the UK

Buy-to-let mortgages are available from some lenders for those looking to purchase investment properties in the UK. Buy-to-lets are generally more expensive than residential mortgages, but this is particularly true for an expat buy-to-let.

Most lenders will offer an LTV around 60% for this type of home loan (although there may be a few who can go higher) and will expect you to achieve a  gross rental income figure of around 140% of the monthly mortgage payments

Remortgage on a UK property

If you own a residential property in the UK, remortgaging it onto a buy-to-let mortgage is often preferable to leaving the property vacant. It can also offer you the comfort of a home to return to, particularly if your residency abroad is linked to a specific employment contract.

Buying overseas property

There are a few specialist UK mortgage lenders who lend to British expats for the purpose of buying abroad, however, this is incredibly niche and you are not likely to find this type of lender without guidance from a specialist broker.

Lenders & rates

In recent years, many high street lenders have withdrawn their expat mortgage products from the market, meaning your choice will be narrowed down to largely specialist lenders such as private banks.

There are fewer than 12% of UK lenders that offer residential mortgages to expats, many of whom do not deal directly with the general public. Even international high street lender HSBC will only consider applications via a defined pool of intermediaries.

Expats who live in countries considered to be high risk, such as Rwanda or Kenya, as well as those in countries like Bulgaria, that are not compliant with the FATF anti money laundering regulations, will find even fewer lenders available to them. There are also a significant number of lenders that won’t consider applications from residents of Australia, due to a treaty between UK and Australian governments.

Using the services of a broker who specialises in expat mortgages will ensure that you can access the lenders who would be otherwise out of reach, optimising your prospect of securing the finance you need, regardless of your income denomination and/or country of residence.

Rates

Whilst rates vary widely based on circumstances and the individual lender, typical rates can be as high as 5.79%. There are lenders that offer initial fixed-rate periods, however, these are still in the region of 3-4%.

As with any niche area of lending, the relatively few providers available make for a less competitive market. Expats will therefore typically pay higher interest rates and fees, regardless of the type of mortgage they need.

*These interest rates are accurate at the time of writing, however, they are subject to frequent fluctuation. In order to source the most competitive rates available to you, you will need to speak to a specialist expat broker.

Things to consider

How currency fluctuations will affect your affordability:

If you’ve opted to repay your UK mortgage in a foreign currency, any fluctuations in the exchange rate could affect your affordability. Whilst lenders are obliged to tell you if the fluctuation exceeds 20%, in some circumstances, the mortgage payments could become unaffordable following less significant increases. If possible, it’s advisable to repay your mortgage in GBP to negate this risk.

The benefits of maintaining a UK credit profile:

Although not all lenders demand that you have current UK credit history, it can significantly improve your chances of securing a mortgage if you do. As credit files are updated regularly, those who have been outside the UK for more than six years are unlikely to have a credit record at all.

One way to overcome this would be to maintain a UK correspondence address, as well as a financial association, such as a bank account. Remortgaging your existing UK home to a buy-to-let so that you can maintain ownership can also be helpful. As these options may have tax implications, it’s recommended that you consult an independent tax adviser who specialises in this area.

Get matched with an expat mortgage broker

Due to the bespoke nature of expat mortgages, it’s unlikely that you will be able to track down the right lender without first seeking the advice of a specialist broker. They will have current knowledge of the products available in this market, and strong connections with the lenders that offer them.

Preparation is a key factor in your success, as is ensuring that the lender you approach is willing to consider all of your circumstances, from the purpose of your application, through to the country you reside in, your income type and the currency in which you are paid.

Our free broker-matching service will pair you with an expat broker who has substantial experience in assisting clients in your precise circumstances. All of the brokers we work with are fully vetted, and offer an initial meeting totally free of charge. They also work on a success-only fee structure, which means you will only pay for their services if you obtain a successful mortgage offer.

You can access our five-star rated introductory services by calling 0808 189 0463 or via this form.

FAQs

Can a non-British citizen buy a house in the UK?

It’s difficult, but not impossible. Those who are financially stable and therefore lower risk borrowers are most likely to be successful. If your income is all from non-UK sources, however, you will need to satisfy the lender of its legitimacy.

Can I get an expat mortgage for a holiday home?

There are very few lenders that offer them, as both holiday homes and expat mortgages are niche areas of lending in their own right, so combining them can be an absolute minefield. Finding a suitable lender will not be possible without the help of an expat mortgage expert.

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We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with mortgage brokers who are experts in Expat Mortgages Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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Pete Mugleston

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Expert

About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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