As your kids get older and start to leave home, and you find your household expenses dropping and your savings burgeoning, buying a second home abroad can start to seem to be a good idea. It's popular amongst many British folk, with destinations such as Spain, France, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy commonly topping the lists of destinations.

However, it's not a step to be taken lightly. The property market in the UK is enough of a minefield to pick your way through without the added complication of doing dealings and reading contracts in another language entirely. To underline some of the potential pitfalls, and to encourage you to proceed cautiously, here are five tips to give thought to before entering into a deal which you might later regret.

Read all you can about your chosen destination's property laws
What applies at home in the UK will not necessarily apply in Italy or France when it comes to buying a property. Ensure you are aware of the minutae of the process of purchasing a home so you don't come unstuck. As an example, the laws in France are, as you would expect, strongly regulated, and you reach the point of no return in a sale (after which you are committed to purchase) much earlier in the process than you do in the United Kingdom. Make sure you know the procedures and hoops you have to jump through before finding yourself ina quagmire of red tape!

Stick to your budget
Make sure your budget is realisitics, and that's it's something you can afford without, say, having to selling your first home! Be firm and don't look at properties that exceed your budget, no matter how lovely they look. A second home is meant to be a place to relax, not a financial headache!

Survey the scene

Ensure you get a house survey before committing to any property; don't bypass it to save money. Finding any structural problems or work needing to be done now could save you plenty in the long run, and might give you a bit of a bargaining chip should you decide to press ahead with the sale and problems have been revealed.

Engage head before heart
We've all fallen in love with properties before now, but try as hard as possible for your head to remain above the cloudy mist of sentiment towards any property you like. Evaluate all the usual criteria for a house; don't let your love of the view, or the huge garden let you overlook its potential negatives.

Spanish Holiday Villa

Futureproof your home
If you're approaching retirement age, remember to bear in mind the suitability of any potential second home abroad for you and your spouse ten or twenty years down the line. That rustic rickety set of steps up to the garden, or the precarious cliff path down to the secluded beach might be fine for you now you are fighting fit, but when you are a little less steady on your feet, will it be such a good idea?