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Retiring to Scotland

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My husband and I visited Scotland last year and loved it so much, we are contemplating retiring there in about 10 years. We are not 'city people' but rather like small towns in the countryside. Does anyone have any experience with day to day cost of living and price of real estate? Sheila? Tony?

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    Nancy--- you probably want to rent first for an extended stay, just to get a feel for the region, etc. Another decididing factor should be access to good medical care and transportation.

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    It really depends on where you live (I'm assuming you're American) in the U.S., and where you plan to retire to in Scotland, as to how the cost of living will stack up. Real estate prices in Scotland have shot up over the past 5 years or so. In some areas, prices have doubled in that period.

    You'll find clothing and cars to be signficantly more expensive in Scotland (cars are at least 30%--Honda Civics and Ford Contours (Mondeo) are considered to be higher-end cars over there! Food tends to be somewhat more expensive, but not signficantly so. Gas, of course, is outrageous--about $5 a gallon, depending on location. Insurance will cost you more as you've never held a license in the U.K.

    I'm not sure what your immigration status would have to be, but I'm sure you've already looked into that. As long as you're legal immigrants, you'll have access to the National Health System. The NHS works extremely well if you have an emergency, or are housebound (they still make house calls), but can be difficult to deal with if you have a less-than-life-threatening problem, such as a knee injury. It can take months to get an MRI or CAT scan. Unlike the U.S., not all hospitals in the U.K. have this equipment. Private insurance is available, but I'm not sure of the cost. It's not as common there as it is here.

    You'll still have to pay tax in the U.S. on any income (since you'll be retired, I'm assuming this will be mainly investment related income), and always have to file a U.S. tax return.

    Buying a house in the U.K. can be a real headache. There's talk of trying to fix the system, but nothing's been done yet. To simplify things greatly, there is no recourse for a buyer or seller in the U.K. if either side pulls out before the sale is closed. No earnest money is put up, and the law doesn't require specific performance (that you must either buy or sell the property after reaching an agreement) in the U.K., as it does here. Also, houses often are put on the market when the buyer doesn't have legal title to sell. I once had a house I was trying to buy sit there for 6 months while the owners tried to sort out a leasehold issue that in the States would have been dealt with before the house was even put on the market. You have to be patient, and be prepared to lose a few houses even after your bid is accepted. It's just a fact of life.

    Hope this helps you out a bit. I'm sure there are others with different view points than mine and will disagree with everything I've said, but this was my experience.

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    I've been away on holiday and have only caught up with this now. Could I suggest we take this to e-mail because it's really complicated? Immigration status could well be a problem. In my spare time (when I'm not here) I'm a solicitor and I do immigration and property law, so I can help a bit.

    I think James has got some stuff "wrong" but since I assume that he is also from the US, his subjective experiences may be more valuable than what we locals may say.

    Property in Edinburgh and Glasgow is dear, and getting dearer, but in less densely populated areas, it's not so bad. If you have a look at the web site for our local property centre covering the North East of Scotland- you may be able to get some comparisons.

    I have always used as a rule of thumb on clothes- buy cotton in the US, and wool here. I think it still holds true.

    And Civcs and Mondeos are ordinary family cars, rather than high end. But compacts are more common here, partly because of the cost of petrol.

    You would only pay US tax if you were resident for tax purposes in the US. We have a double taxation treaty which ensures you don't pay twice. It may be hard to be permanently resident here, but pay taxes in the US, for obvious reasons.

    We have separate legal sytems in the Scotland and England. I think James is talking about the English system. I certainly don't recognise what he says about it, as far as our system is concerned.

    If you have a concluded contract to buy here, (in Scotland you contract for the seller to fulfil a set opf preagreed obligations; in England the purchaser satisfies him/herself before concluding the contract) you most certianly have a remedy if there is a subsequent breach.

    We don't have leasehold title in Scotland, so James's experience can't happen to you.

    But you may find you are bidding against others without knowing what they are offering.

    In any case I would suggest you rent till you know you are happy with an area. Please feel free to come back for further info.

    And I'm not rubbishing James's I said it is probably more valid as a comparison than anything we can say.

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