Everyone’s read horror stories about retirees who finally take the plunge to realize their long-held dreams of relocating abroad, only for it all to quickly turn sour. Fantasies of tropical paradises, year-round sunshine, and exotic culture soon fade when they figure out they’ve made various errors in the process. Finances disappear, properties never materialize, and credit scores are shredded, leaving them in a far worse position than before their misinformed adventure began.

You don’t have to follow in their footsteps. Many of the small hiccups that come with moving abroad are unavoidable, but with proper planning, you can prevent any large mishaps that may derail your dream. Here are five of the biggest overseas retirement mistakes people make, and how to avoid them.

1. Buying property without due diligence

Buying property in the U.S. is often a long and complicated process, but purchasing abroad is a totally different ballgame. Each country has its own individual property laws that tend to have some idiosyncrasies that can trip you up if you’re not aware of them. This can become extra complicated if you’re unable to speak the language, and some unscrupulous agents and developers sometimes take advantage of this naiveté.

There are a few golden rules you should follow when buying property overseas.

  • Never buy without seeing the property. This is still surprisingly common among people buying overseas, but contains all kinds of pitfalls, including the risk that the property may not even exist.
  • Always get anything you’ve agreed upon with the vendor in writing; otherwise, you make it extremely easy for them to deny it altogether.
  • Check the reputation of the company you’re buying through. This is best done both online and, if possible, by talking to people who have previously bought through them.

2. Not having an exit plan

Some people see it as defeatist to have an exit plan when retiring overseas, but in fact, it’s one of the most sensible things you can do. There are circumstances that could make you want or need to move back to the U.S. — many of them completely outside of your control. Political instability, currency fluctuations, health issues, and family situations at home are all potential causes.

The most important…