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Overseas property investors losing out PDF
Friday, 28 August 2009 12:14

Overseas property
Investors can lose an average of £4,000 on foreign exchange.
‘Mystery’ calls to high street banks reveal foreign exchange is best left to the specialists


The high street banks are squeezing overseas property investors for an average of more than £4,000 for every €200,000 they ‘buy’ according to foreign exchange broker Foremost Currency Group (

As the global economic situation appears to stabilise and investors tentatively return to the overseas property market, Foremost Currency Group is releasing findings from a series of ‘mystery’ calls to a selection of high street banks and foreign exchange specialists, disclosing the exchange rate offered to individuals wanting to ‘buy’ €200,000 (the approximate price of a 2/3 bed villa in rural France). The findings will not make for happy reading for investors that entrust international payments to their high street banks; buying a property worth €200,000 will cost them on average £178,303.09 versus £174,211.47 with a specialist broker.

Commenting on the findings, Robin McEwen, MD, Foremost Currency Group says, “Overseas property investors know that the quick returns characteristic of the late 90s and the ‘00s are a thing of the past, for the time being at least. However investors on tight budgets taking a long term view are returning to the market and financial institutions should be encouraging them to do so. By taking such a large margin on foreign exchange the high street banks are doing exactly the opposite.”

The ‘mystery’ calls were conducted on 22.08.09 from 10.30 to 10.45am (within a 15 minute window to prevent movements in the money markets skewing the results). See below for a comparison table outlining the different banks / brokers called and the exchange rates offered by each:

The cost of buying €200,000



£s Spent

Transfer Fees

Foremost Currency Group












Currencies Direct




Broker average







£15 - £25




£10 - £27




£9.50 - £19.50




£10 - £30

Bank average




*Exchange rates obtained on 22.08.09 between 10.30am - 10.45am


The table also includes details of the transfer fees that the high street banks charge for each individual transfer. Again there is a marked difference between what is on offer from a high street bank and a specialist exchange broker.
McEwen continues, “It’s not just the prospect of saving thousands that should tip the balance in favour of a specialist. A broker’s day job is to specifically monitor the money markets; high street banks on the other hand are split across a number of key remits and foreign exchange is not their primary focus.”
Getting through to an individual at the bank that could offer a genuine exchange rate was also difficult; it took more than 20 minutes to reach someone that could discuss foreign exchange in one case. McEwen comments, “By its very nature playing the exchange game requires swift action – if the markets move in your favour then you don’t want to wait an hour for the bank to confirm a rate they can actually stick to.”


“At Foremost Currency Group we have returned to the old-fashioned way of banking, where clients are allocated a personal account manager to look after their transaction from start to finish.”

Foremost Currency Group has a variety of overseas buyers that have used its services to save money on foreign exchange.

About Foremost Currency

Launched in October 2005, Foremost Currency provides a specialist foreign exchange service for individuals buying or selling property abroad, emigrating and transferring regular payments overseas, and businesses importing and exporting goods. Foremost Currency’s team members specialise solely in the foreign exchange markets, ensuring an effective foreign exchange price and service. The company has grown in turnover by 100% year on year and seen 50% staff growth year on year. It launched the Foremost Property Group in January 2008,, and EfirstFX, an online trading platform, in April 2009  
For more information, visit: or call: 0800 781 0601

Bill Williams retired to the Poitou-Charentes region of France just over five years ago with his wife.  The Williams herald from a small village between Hereford and Abergavenny, and despite the region’s picturesque countryside, increased rowdiness at night in the two local towns gradually discouraged them from visiting them at all, and was a significant factor in their decision to leave the UK.

After several holidays exploring different regions of France and with Bill’s retirement approaching, the Williams eventually decided to move to the tiny village of Tillou in 2004.
Bill and his wife purchased an old, three bedroom detached house in the village which required extensive renovation and the house and garden consequently became an ongoing hobby and project for the couple.  Bill admits that despite the work needed on the property, they’ve enjoyed the project and feel entirely settled in their new home – so much so that they have no plans to return to the UK.

For individuals who are thinking about retiring abroad, Bill highlights that there are a number of factors which should be taken into consideration.  For example when looking to purchase a house, “You need to be as clear and as firm as possible with the estate agents.  At the end of the day, the agents will just want to sell you a house and you’ll find yourselves viewing properties which don’t match your criteria at all.  However, it’s important to stick to your guns, be direct with your agent, be patient, and enter the viewing market with an open mind, as it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find a property which matches your criteria exactly.”

Bill continues, “Many individuals who move to France are often tempted by beautiful, large houses which are accompanied by acres of land.  However the long hot summers often mean that it is too uncomfortable to take on physical work during the day so large gardens end up being left incomplete.   It’s important to be realistic about the size of property that you go for and not to bite off more than you can chew!”

Since moving to France, the Williams have become good friends with the locals in their village and often have fun trying to communicate at dinner parties.  Bill advises that “Although learning French is difficult, giving it a go is important, even if it’s just a couple of words here and there - the locals really appreciate it.”

Financial planning is another vital aspect of moving abroad, and the Williams sought out opportunities to save money wherever they could.  One key money-saving tip Bill shares is to research foreign exchange options – as moving to a foreign country inevitably requires the exchange of finances from one currency to another, especially when buying property.  
The Williams need to exchange money on a regular basis for general living costs and house maintenance.  As such they transfer £700 of their pension over to their French account every month and transfer £7,000 worth of dividends on a yearly basis using foreign exchange specialist Foremost Currency’s Overseas Regular Payment Plan (ORPP).  Unlike FOREX services offered by the High Street banks, Bill is not charged commission, gets a  personal service from specialist brokers whose day-job is currency, and gains a competitive exchange rate (please see comparison table below)“I found that when transferring relatively small amounts of money the High Street banks would offer close to a tourist exchange rate and charge between £20 - £40 per transfer and as much as 2% by way of commission.  By using a specialist I can also fix a good rate for anything up to two years, and so lessen my exposure to negative fluctuations in the money markets.”

The Williams are fully content with their new lives in France, and with no plans to ever return to the UK it is clear that Poitou-Charentes is now where they call home.  

Monthly transfer - typical savings:






HOW MANY €’s WILL £700 BUY YOU FROM Foremost Currency?


£700 @ 1.1101 =  €777.07

£700 @ 1.16 =  €812


2% of £700 = £14




PER MONTH = £8.50






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