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Can you have a UK mortgage but live abroad?

Written by Suffolk Building Society

9 Jan 2024



6 min read

Yes! Many people have a mortgage on a property in the UK when they live aboard.

An expat is a person who is living and working outside their home country. A UK expat mortgage is for UK nationals living abroad to mortgage, or remortgage, a UK property.

The expat mortgage market is complex. The criteria for eligibility differ between mortgage lenders. Even then it’s not set in stone.

The key to a successful expat mortgage application is preparation. Take the time to do your research. Be ready to supply evidence to support your case.

Here are some key things you need to know before applying for an expat mortgage.

Where do you currently reside?

Each lender will have a list of eligible countries and these lists often change.

There’s a range of factors that can impact a country’s eligibility – often socio-political reasons, as well as concerns over money laundering. If the UK government has financial sanctions in place, the country is unlikely to be accepted. The same applies to countries that are in a warzone or aren’t economically stable.

The location of your employer can impact eligibility. Some lenders are more lenient on this aspect. Others will require your employer to have a UK or international presence.

As with other types of mortgages, it can be harder to assess income if you’re self employed. Providing proper evidence of your finances can make the process much smoother.

Currency concerns

A lender may accept your country of residence, but you need to be sure that they will also accept the currency in which you’re paid.

Most stable currencies will be accepted such as sterling, euros, US and Canadian dollars and UAE dirham. Some lenders will accept a wider range of currencies for expat BTL and expat holiday let applications. However, the lender may not accept a deposit in a foreign currency. This becomes even less likely if you plan to pay your deposit in a third currency, for example neither GBP nor the currency of your current country of residence. The lender will require clear evidence of where your deposit has come from.

For expat mortgages, many lenders will apply a ‘haircut’ to your income. This is a calculation that effectively reduces your income to allow for currency fluctuations and tax contributions. Your affordability can be impacted by this calculation.

Your individual situation

You should also be prepared to provide the lender with as much detail as possible about your circumstances.

For example, you may be:

  • Moving alone and leaving your family in the UK
  • Moving your family abroad with you
  • Planning to rent out your UK property, either short or long term, or as a holiday let
  • Looking to refinance an existing property
  • Buying an investment property to retain a foothold in the UK housing market.

Some lenders have rules about whether a property can be left empty whilst you work abroad. Others also have criteria about who you can allow to remain in the property.

To let out your property, you would require either a buy to let or a holiday let mortgage. Most holiday let expat mortgages allow you to live in the property for a number of days per year, usually between 30 and 90. This is beneficial if you plan to return to the UK for short periods. However, the lender will often require the property to be located within an area of known holiday let demand.

Can you make a joint application?

As with most aspects of an expat mortgage application, this varies between lenders. To be considered, the first applicant must usually be a UK passport holder. If the second applicant is a non-UK national, their income may not contribute to your affordability.

Seek support for your application

The expat mortgage market can be difficult to navigate without the right support. Consult a broker or lender as early in the process as possible. This can help you understand the options available to you. Be prepared to provide evidence of your financial and personal circumstances. This can help the process run smoothly.

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