The temptation is to buy your dream home as soon as you arrive, but unless you have been studying the local market for many years you should always start by renting a property. Until you have spent time in the area you will not know enough about the area to avoid buying the wrong property in the wrong place at the wrong price. There will be no shortage of people offering to guide you but remember that however they present themselves an estate agent is primarily working for the developer or the seller of the property and will often have a vested interest in pointing you towards particular options.
By renting initially you will be able to get a feel for your new lifestyle and confirm the location and type of property that will best suit your needs in a very different environment than you are used to. It also gives you the chance to see the range of properties available, talk to people who have been enjoying the life for a number of years and really get to know the market so that you can spot a bargain.
Renting long term will give you a greater level of flexibility if you decide to move to a slightly different area or if you need to return home due to unforeseen circumstances, such as health issuers for you or for a member of your family (or finding you do not enjoy being separated from your new grandchildren). Your capital will not be tied up in property and you will have fewer inheritance issues to consider. You will also not be responsible for property maintenance which can involve unexpected costs.
Many prefer the feeling of stability and belonging that comes with owning your property. If you have the funds to buy a property it can be an attractive option allowing you to make changes to create your dream home. If you need to finance your property purchase you need to identify how much you can provide as a deposit and decide whether to use a broker in the UK or obtain the funds locally in the country where you plan to retire. Depending on the income and investments you have available you will need to identify the exchange rate risks that you face in paying the mortgage and ensure you allow for those risks in working out what you can afford and manage the risks as best you can.
The processes involved in buying a property abroad in different countries varies and you should ensure you understand what is involved and get independent advice from a qualified lawyer experienced in the market and able to speak English. It is common to find agencies and sellers suggesting that you use their lawyer, but there will inevitably be a conflict of interest. It is illegal for a solicitor to represent both parties in the sale of property in the UK and it is very inadvisable to do so anywhere.
Another option for those who no longer enjoy living alone but prefer the community spirit is a retirement complex, which may include a range of apartments together with leisure facilities, social club and a range of care services. Each apartment generally comes with an alarm system and medical back-up. Living in the complex, you can take advantage of all the facilities, both social and medical, and have the comfort of security such facilities provide. There are generally options to buy or for apartments to be rented on a long-term basis.
Whatever you decide to do it should be an informed decision to avoid making a purchase you will live to regret. A well-researched property decision will be the foundation of a happy retirement abroad.