‘We fell in love with a dream’ - Couple’s retirement nightmare
PUBLISHED: 10:27 01 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:31 02 August 2020
Peter and Karen Robinson have lost much of their life’s savings after spending more than 500,000 Euros to retire to Austria.
They ended up buying two apartments and have spent thousands in legal fees, trying to take the seller in Austria to court because they feel they were mis-sold one of the properties. But they’ve been stuck in Norfolk in lockdown and forking out nearly £900 a month on rent.
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The Robinsons, currently living in Haveringland, near Norwich, are now advising other people to be wary.
Mr Robinson, a retired RAF technician, said: “It has been an absolute nightmare, it’s a big mess. My wife had to retire on ill health from working in the NHS and the worry of all this has really upset her. We fell in love with the dream of a complete change of lifestyle opportunity, there was a swimming pool and my wife wanted to use that to relax in because she has osteo-arthritis.”
They bought an apartment from a family who’d owned a hotel they’d gone to for around 20 years, 20kms from Innsbruck. for 240,000 Euros but because it only had one bedroom, and they wanted their son to be able to visit, they ended up buying a second one, for 190,000 Euros, with a mortgage. After selling up and moving out there, they were told the second apartment had no parking space – affecting their ability to re-sell it. Their relationship with the family went sour and they realised they’d made a terrible mistake and put the apartments up for sale.
They returned to the UK to see their son in March and then lockdown occurred. In April they sold their property and because an offer is binding in Austria once both parties sign, they had a removals firm empty the apartment and put the contents in storage in Norfolk. But the sale fell through and they were advised it would cost 10,000 Euros to take the buyers to court.
So they’re renting, unable to buy until they’ve sold in Austria, but got an apartment there which will be hard to sell and another which is empty as well as being out of pocket and having to use the rest of their pension on rent.
Mr Robinson said: “My trust in people has completely gone. Despite our complaints to various authorities in Austria such as the police, local government and the regional safety executive, no action has been taken. Having worked hard all our working lives, my wife in a difficult child protection role in the NHS and myself within an emergency services role, we should be enjoying our retirement.”
Advice on buying abroad:
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The government has issued tips on buying abroad which include:
Always get written confirmation of what has been agreed in any negotiations and always insist on a paper (preferably not electronic) receipt for monies paid
Check that the seller or property developer owns the title deeds to the property or land and can transfer them to you. Check the title deeds actually exist.
Ask the developer to show you some projects they’ve completed and talk to owners of properties on these developments to see if they have had any problems
Establish whether the developer has outstanding commitments to utility suppliers to bring water, sewage, electricity etc to the development
Consider drawing up a will in the country as inheritance laws may differ to that of the UK.
Seek independent legal advice not lawyers and translators/interpreters who were recommended by the estate agent or developer.
Appoint an independent English speaking lawyer and check they have professional indemnity insurance.
If you don’t have a good understanding of the language, get all contracts and relevant documentation translated by an independent translator who should accompany you to all meetings.
Make sure you fully understand the mortgage agreement you sign.
Consider all the fees involved
Get the developer to state their obligation to return all advanced amounts plus interest to you ifthe build is not started or not completed within the deadline stated in the contract, or if the habitation certificate is not granted.
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