Buying now in the U.K. – or any of the other Anglo-Saxon countries – is not a tremendously good idea. The property markets in those countries have bubbled up to bursting point, and when the bubbles burst, values could plunge dramatically. At least here in Taiwan there is not that much room for a further substantial fall in prices, barring attack by the mainland and/or collapse of the local economy.
I would say that it’s better to buy a new property. First of all, buildings put up since 921 are likely to be more earthquake resistant. They’re also likely to have much better plumbing, wiring, etc. (which I’ve generally found to be appallingly shoddy in older buildings) as Taiwanese now demand higher standards for these things in new developments. Secondly, with such a glut of surplus property on the market and so many old places being auctioned off cheaply by banks and the courts, a newer place will much easier to sell at a reasonable price if you need to. It seems that most activity in the property market now is people upgrading from old homes to new ones, and there’s little interest in anything old unless it’s available at a truly knock-down price. And thirdly, it’s just so much nicer to live in a place that’s spanking new.
I’m paying around NT$4.3~4.4 million for a new 21-ping flat in Hsintien. With an internal staircase and upstairs rooms (currently under design), it’ll have over 30 ping of usable floor space, which isn’t too bad for the price. There’ll be a fitness club and swimming-pool on the ground floor, and a parking space for my scooter underground. Even if property prices continue to slide and I lose quite a lot of money when I eventually sell it, it’ll be worth the outlay for having a place of my own to live in during the intervening years. When you take into account the rent I’ll save, I probably won’t end up much worse off financially. And if by any chance the property market rebounds and its value goes up, that’ll be a very nice unexpected bonus.
The construction company seemed quite surprised that I wanted it registered in my own name. They’re used to other foreigners using the wife’s name, as most foreigners who buy are already married to local girls (or guys). They tentatively suggested that perhaps I should use my girlfriend’s name, but I don’t much like the idea of that – though it’s a stable relationship and likely to end up licenced, it ain’t there yet and one never knows. Their lawyers are still stumbling over it – they promised completion within three weeks, but after two months it’s still not done, and their excuse is always “It’s because you’re a foreigner, which makes it much more complicated.” Haven’t we all heard that tune before!