According to HM Revenue & Customs' UK Overseas Trade Statistics, July 2014 alone saw £38.2 billion of imports and £25.5 billion of exports.While such large numbers may be difficult to relate to, many individuals are contributing to the flow of money into and out of the UK on a smaller scale, through overseas property investment.
Property is increasingly being seen as one of the best ways to make money over the longer term. A report from the Wriglesworth Consultancy earlier this year examined the matter in detail. Wriglesworth considered the investment of £1,000 in property in 1996 and looked at what it would have returned across a range of investments in the final quarter of 2013. Returns generated would have been: £1,949 from cash; £2,924 from gilts; £3,654 from UK commercial property investment; and £13,048 from buy-to-let property.
From single family homes, to workforce accommodation in areas of high demand - such as the oilfields of North Dakota - property that is developed to earn yields from rental income takes many forms, allowing investors to benefit from capital growth at the same time as rental income.
So how does the average investor know where to start, particularly when it comes to overseas property investment?
Here, property and real estate expert Robert Gavin - Group CEO of specialist property developer North Dakota Developments - offers his five top tips for investing in property outside the UK:
1. Due diligence
Firstly, do your research. Don't just look at the investment itself but the story behind it. Why is accommodation needed in that particular area and at that particular time? How strong is the rental demand and how long is it likely to remain so? How has the property market in that area developed over time? Be sure to have solid answers to all of these questions before moving forward with any potential property investment.
Consider the company you are planning to invest with and their partners on the property development and look for companies with established credentials.
3. Past successes
Examine a company's past successes to see how previous investors have made money, over what period and what their level of returns have been. Don't be shy to ask questions about previous projects, including what the company has learned from them to make their latest project development even better.
A good developer will keep their investors up to date on the latest progress at each site, including any delays, the reasons behind them and the details of how they are being dealt with. No major construction project runs smoothly from start to finish - there are always complications such as freak weather or delayed delivery of materials. Despite this, a decent developer should be able to overcome the issues while keeping their investors fully informed. A trustworthy company has nothing to hide.
Don't just take the company at face value - look at what others have said about them. Read testimonials from investors in the company's previous projects to get an idea how the company has helped them make money, the level of customer care provided and general customer satisfaction.