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So where do you begin? Ok, so you think you know which country you want to buy your property in - most people will have visited a country and region many times before deciding to buy there. Many people will be buying with a husband / wife / partner, so it is vital you two are both aligned. My top tip for how to ensure you are both ‘on the same page’?

Each take a blank sheet of paper and a pen and sit in separate rooms. Then answer the following questions and compare results. Both happy? Aligned? No? Then you need to talk…

Questions to ask yourself:

» What are you PRIMARILY buying this property for:
» Holiday home
» More of a financial investment – to be mainly rented out
» To retire to now
» To retire to later with some mixed holiday / rental use

» What do you each see yourselves doing in the region, facilitated by your property?
» 100% time together relaxing
» Boys golf trips (how often..?)
» Girls weekends away (how often..?)

» How often do you think you will visit your property in the first year, 3rd year, 5th year, 10 years+?

» When your property is not occupied by your friends and family will you rent it out?

» How long will you rent it for and for how much?

» What NET rental income must your property realise after cost of servicing, agent fees, taxes, running costs and other deductions?

(Note. You know you always underestimate how much money you will spend whilst on holiday? yep, owning and running a foreign property is pretty much like that too. Put a comprehensive budget together, pronto!) There are no right or wrong answers - just the answers that give you both clarity of purpose and direction as to what is the right property that meets your own individual needs.


» You may not intend to rent your property out but circumstances can change - a property you personally fall in love with but is out of the main tourist areas can be difficult to rent / manage should you later wish to do so.

» The likely rental value that you may achieve should be considered before purchase - also who you might rent through. A local agent has some advantages although income will be in the local currency (not Sterling) and the quality of service can be highly variable - in some instances, fraudulent accounting of what the local agent says they have let the property for in value and time being less than they have realised.

» One way to beat both currency and fraud issues is to contract with a UK holiday company who could offer you a fixed contract (regardless of number of weeks used) in Sterling. Have a look at the likes of Villa Plus and James Villas etc for typical market values and to perhaps make an enquiry as to whether they are looking to add properties to their portfolio in the area you are interested in buying.


Most people who buy a property abroad will have a pretty good idea of where they want to buy, whether a specific country, region, or even resort. Holiday-home ownership is often referred to as the “final stage of tourism” and indeed the story behind a good many property purchases will involve owners being drawn back to the same place year after year and then finally deciding to commit more fully by buying their own home there.

But maybe you don’t know where to buy for sure? It’s all too easy to get bamboozled with tempting landscapes, persuasive arguments and alluring prices but usually the best place to start is asking yourself why you want to buy abroad.

Knowing what you want your property to do for you is explored more fully on page 7 but if we take the most popular current locations for residential property hunters (we are not talking about commercial property investment in this guide), it’s a useful snapshot.


Spain is the stand-out favourite, according to multiple sources, because it ticks so many boxes. We are not only talking about the perennial issues of accessibility, climate, beaches and quality of amenities that have kept its tourism numbers swelling year after year, but the fact that properties are so affordable there currently. In 2014 Spain began to emerge from its worst ever property crash so that whilst prices are still well down on their 2006/07 peak, investors have the confidence of putting their money into a market capable of recovery.

So, to summarise: Spain’s an established, relatively familiar market for the British with buoyant tourism promising reasonable returns for property hunters seeking to cover their running costs; with a decent chance of some capital growth too.

…or why not?

Of course the flipside of the coin is that some of Spain’s coastal areas might already offer too many British, or indeed foreign, owners for some people’s liking, so for a more “authentic” experience of owning abroad they might head to less familiar locations such as Turkey, Greece, Italy or Croatia.

With property prices still well down from their peak in many Eurozone countries outside Spain, affordability – combined with a strong pound to euro rate at the time of writing - is also drawing buyers. If you’ve always hankered after a home in Portugal, France, Italy, Greece or Cyprus, then now is arguably the best time in over a decade to buy it – if you have cash. Note that lending options have narrowed in all those countries with the notable exception of France, where mortgage rates are at record-lows.

Climate factor

For those seeking year-round sun, Florida remains the popular choice, again with fast-growing tourism and property prices down from their 2006 peak – though rising again in many hotspots such as Orlando and Miami.

The sugar-sand beaches and laid-back vibe of the Caribbean is often high on many people’s wish-list but generally require deeper pockets, as are other bucket-list locations such as the Indian Ocean, South Africa’s Western Cape or the Maldives.

Your money will go much further in Thailand, however affordability must be weighed against ownership complications for foreign buyers and the varied risks of buying in an emerging market. Since the global downturn the horizons of British buyers have certainly narrowed and focused on the “safe” and close to home. Yes, there’s still an interest in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and North Africa for the intrepid, but “new” destinations are regarded with an entirely healthy dose of caution.


Most people will buy a property for one of two main reasons: to enjoy a lifestyle in a given area or just as a financial investment with minimal / no usage. Of course, no-one buys a property to lose money, so all property is a mechanism by which capital is tied up that will, it is hoped, at least hold its value and perhaps appreciate.

Delve a little deeper and the picture becomes a little more complex; perhaps the buyer intends to retire /part retire to a property in the sun but first buys it for family holidays also to let-out as a means for paying for the investment over a planned 20 year mortgage period.

The last foreign property boom was caused, in part, by property speculators not investors – defined as investors with a very short purchase to sale period, often just a few months. This led to a glut of properties being built and sold without enough ‘end-users’ or ‘lifestyle’ buyers coming into the market to acquire and live in them. So if you are buying for investment you should be clear on your exit plan and be aware of the market-inflating practices of speculators – do you consider yourself a speculator?

Buying for investment is a different scenario altogether with careful consideration given to the net yield that a property will give over a defined period. If you buy at the right price then some capital growth may be

anticipated but not exclusively relied upon – what happens if many of the apartments in the block you bought into are owned by investors and they come to market around the same time? You may be surprised how often this happens as investors respond to changes in the local market and macro-economic financial picture.

That said, research by Rightmove Overseas points to the majority of UK buyers in 2015 buying a foreign property to meet a long-held desire to own a holiday home into retirement usage. Such a plan is now unfolding with foreign property prices in many major markets having reached bottom and now slowly rising again, particularly in Spain where approximately 1 million properties have sat empty for around 5 years.

A holiday home is, perhaps, a big treat to yourself and a significant capital outlay. To be added to the cost of the property is the cost of purchase (perhaps around 12% in Spain) and running costs. Prudent budgeting is therefore vital if you are to enjoy your holiday home without financial worry. It may also mean you wish to let your property out to help pay for its upkeep. This may then influence your choice of location of holiday home – perhaps less rural idyll towards walking distance to shops, restaurants and other tourist amenities?

Purchasing a property for
retirement and emigration often go hand-in-hand. It is an appealing prospect to sell a higher-valued UK property and to get ‘more’ for your money by buying abroad. This is often the intended ‘last move’ and a reward for many years of hard work. Many people enjoy this change and join local as well as expat communities in the sun. But consideration should also be given to later changes to come in life with, perhaps, access to and around the property important should mobility become a factor.

Access to medical care and perhaps a care home for a partner, whilst not in the mind of most 50-somethings, should be a key consideration as we are living longer, but perhaps also getting mentally and physically frailer because of it. With higher sales and purchase costs than buyers are used to in the UK, it could be very expensive and unsettling to move property again after retirement. Finding a buyer for your property (if in a typically expat or touristic area), will also follow the pattern of demand – try and sell in a weak market and your property could take many months or years at the price you want / can afford to sell at.


For some people, only brand spanking new will do, and this applies to buying a home as much as a car, sofa or suit.


Buying or purchase costs involve a combination of agent commission costs (varying by country and sometimes region); transfer tax or stamp duty, notary/land registry costs, legal fees plus any mortgage arrangement fees. If you’re buying new-build there’s the VAT – although this may be redeemable if you opt to rent out your property professionally (French leaseback and tourism residences in Austria, for example).

Purchase costs can add up to over 10 per cent of the sales price of a property, depending where you buy, so you really need to factor this into your budget when you make an offer on a property. Ask your agent to advise you on this before you start your search.

In Spain, for example, a leading agent in Andalucia suggests that you budget “10.5 to 14 per cent” of the purchase price for purchasing a resale property, with an additional 2 to 4 per cent on top if you are having a Spanish mortgage. Note that buying costs vary across the 17 different regions of Spain.


On top of the cost of any mortgage on a property, there will also be ongoing taxes and running costs on second homes. The level of these is important to ascertain early on, as it might help decide what type of property you buy (new or old? standalone or part of a complex?) as well as where you buy it.

Also, these monthly expenses will also eat out of any rental income you make from your property, or indeed force you to think about renting it out to “wash its face” (cover its costs). If you don’t want the hassle of doing this, then make sure you can afford to keep the property without letting it.


You also need to consider the yearly taxation you might have to pay as a non-resident (or second home) owner as well as community fees, homeowner association fees (in the US), insurance and types of council tax. If you own a home in a community, there will be costs for street lighting and rubbish clearance etc that will need to be covered by local taxes.

In Spain there’s an annual property tax called IBI whilst in France there are two types of tax: Taxe d’Habitation and Taxe Foncière and in Italy it’s even more
complicated – a three-part service tax, the IUC, introduced in 2014 and not universally understood!

You also need to understand the difference between being resident in a country and being tax-resident there. This has implications for inheritance tax (IHT). If you rent out your property, you’ll also need to pay income tax on rental income locally.

In fact, it can be worthwhile taking expert advice – from a local lawyer or accountant – or in Spain, a Gestor – once a year to ensure you pay the right tax - at the right time.


Holiday homes are often left unoccupied for long periods, or they are rented out to third parties so specialist insurance needs to be factored in.

If your home is in an earthquake zone, hurricane belt or frontline beach location then such costs may be higher than usual.

Insurance costs may well be covered by community or development fees, but check this - communal parts of the development may be covered but not your specific property or contents.


As with buying a home in the UK, the costs of property ownership run far beyond the price on the sales contract. The key to managing your finances successfully is knowing what you can expect to pay

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that either or both of these will be lower than in the UK – buying costs can be much higher in different countries and second homes tend to be taxed more highly too. Ongoing costs may include high upkeep costs involving management fees and also climatic wear and tear.

There’s also the advantage that your home might offer the latest technology and fashionable finishes, as well as a higher buildquality than something built at the height of a property boom a decade ago. This is a factor behind the current trend towards newbuild in the overseas industry – in the Spanish and Florida markets in particular – where buyers are rejecting outdated or outmoded properties in favour of the “new generation” new-builds that have begun to be constructed after a hiatus of several years in the construction industries.

A lot of lessons have been learnt in the industry since the global downturn ended several years of frenzied property investment and developers have realised they are having to respond to buyers that are more discerning and demanding.

Certainly if you expect to rent
out your home professionally, a brand-new new-build with all the latest integrated technology is going to appeal to a large pool of potential guests, and also offer a more practical, hassle-free option for the hands-off landlord.

Although you may be liable to a VAT type tax on new-builds, you may be able to reclaim this if you rent it out professionally, plus you could expect very little extra outlay on top of the purchase price to eat into your rental income.

Another advantage of buying pre-construction (off-plan) or during the build process is that you often get to decide the finishes or even layout of your new home. Having selected the exact location of the plot (if part of a complex) there is a far greater element of choice available in shaping the final product you want. The plot you choose will be significant when you come to sell – homes on corner plots may sell faster than others mid-terrace; whilst those backing onto a road might take longer.

So far so wonderful, but some words of caution too: make sure you do due diligence on the builder and have a firm understanding of what costs you might be liable for – the buyer of a new-build might have extra costs that the resale buyer doesn’t. For example, in Italy your kitchen might not be included. Also, buyers anywhere should be aware of expensive furniture packages.
Incidentally, Italians tend to love new-builds whilst overseas buyers in Italy lap up those wonderful historic homes with original terracotta tiles, oak beams and even frescoes. For many of these buyers, a “character-less” new-build can never compete with a piece of history, and here is the main appeal of a resale property – or at least a period one.

Decades of wear and tear can be part of a property’s appeal – think of ancient stone floors polished by generations of owners - and a property’s uniqueness can be appealing to buyers and renters.

But do make sure you have a survey undertaken before you buy a resale property – although not necessarily customary in countries like Spain and France – because the older a property, the greater scope for hidden problems. With resales, “what you see is what you get” does not always apply – although you can see how the property works as a home and its surroundings, which you can’t do when buying off-plan or mid-construction.

Do also check whether a property complies with modern building regulations and if any alterations or extensions come with the correct planning permissions. Get your lawyer to check and avoid heartache later on.


Property hunters abroad tend to be much more educated than they were a decade ago and, apart from appreciating the need to take independent legal advice, many have learnt to use a foreign exchange (or FX) company.

Whilst there are so many variables when buying an overseas home, one major certainty is that you will need to exchange your pounds into another currency and transfer these funds abroad. Plus, in this global age, it is hard not to appreciate the relevance of exchange rates, with some dramatic swings to and fro within the last couple of years.

The recovery of the overseas market during 2014, with UK investors re-emerging in several major eurozone countries, is in part credited to the strength of sterling against the euro, thereby allowing buyers to benefit from the “double whammy” of depressed property prices combined with the greater buying power of the pound.

But if choosing when to buy to capitalise on a particular currency’s strength or weakness involves a certain amount of guess-work, using a FX broker in a currency transfer can without doubt save you a certain sum of money over using a bank because they very often offer better rates.

These days overseas property fairs and exhibitions are full of FX companies and because - broadly
– they all offer the same services, it’s a competitive marketplace.

So how does it work? When you are planning your overseas purchase, it’s good to have an FX broker lined up in advance. Brokers will allocate you a personal account manager, who will monitor the currency markets and keep you updated.

Currency brokers can buy your currency at the exact time that rates are best, and if you are not restricted by time with your purchase, “stop-loss orders” and “limit orders” allow you to buy currency when your preferred exchange rate is available.

Also in common use now are “forward contracts” which effectively protect your buying power from currency fluctuations by letting you fix an exchange rate for a future transaction. This makes financial planning easier.

You can fix today’s exchange rates for up to two years with a Forward Contract, and only lodge 10 per cent of the total you want to convert initially. With this popular type of contract you can either fix the date you wish to take delivery of your currency, or have the option of taking delivery at any point up until the agreed date.

You can fix the amount of pounds you send abroad on a regular basis, for example monthly, which means the amount of local currency you receive in your foreign bank account will fluctuate with the exchange rate; or you can fix the amount of local
currency, for example euros, that is paid into your overseas account, meaning the amount of pounds being debited from your UK account will fluctuate with the exchange rate.

You can typically save up to four per cent over using a bank – so £4,000 on a £100,000 apartment; £8,000 on a £200,000 villa, for example. You will typically be given online account access from which you are able to transfer Sterling to your broker and they do the rest - such as making regular payments abroad.

Once you’ve purchased the property, you will almost certainly need to make regular payments overseas from the UK - to meet mortgage repayments, and pay local bills, taxes or management costs. If you are retiring abroad you’ll need to have your pension paid monthly into a foreign bank account.


In other sections of this guide so far we have covered the need to budget when planning your move abroad, when purchasing a property and for running your home.

But, as always, there is a need to plan ahead and anticipate changes of circumstance in the future. In fact, a large amount of people in their fifties certainly seem to be doing this already, with agents reporting that UK pension reforms have played their role in kick-starting the market in Spain especially.

From March 2014 the over-55s have gained greater access to their pension pots with the ability to withdraw a lump sum of up to £30,000, (couples are now taking cash and investing it in a property ready for the time when they are free to spend longer periods in the sun (find out more on pension reform at www.gov.uk/government/news/ pension-reforms.)

Even if you don’t do this, you will need to decide how you draw down your pension [see page 15] and what type of resident you will become in the country where your home(s) are located.


If you intend to gradually semiretire to your overseas holiday home, then beware of falling between two countries and not being properly registered as a resident (or habitually resident) of
either. In which, or both, will you be tax-resident? You may need to file tax returns – and pay taxes - in both countries. Make sure you understand domicile – and the definition of domicile differs between jurisdictions – because the fate of your movable assets (stocks and shares etc) when you die may be affected – see below.


Even if you have no thoughts of retirement when you first buy a home abroad, bear in mind that it might make sense to put your children on the title deeds to save on transfer taxes and/ or inheritance taxes. Whether you do or not, bear in mind that a carefully drafted will pays dividends – Spain reduces inheritance tax (IHT) liability with the addition of children to the will as well as ensuring your estate goes to exactly those you wish it to.

Because don’t assume that if you buy a property abroad you can hand it on to whoever you choose. You may have heard of France’s historic forced heirship rules (where the state dictates how your estate is divided up between your children, siblings and your parents rather than your spouse), well each country currently has their own rules governing who should benefit when someone dies – and how much tax is paid.

Succession law – who gets what when you die – is governed by the jurisdiction of the country
in which your immovable assets (property) are situated, or where you are domiciled. So do take expert advice even before you sign the sales contract and decide the most effective way of purchasing (as far as who is on the deeds), and whether you buy as an individual or as a company. Such advice must come from someone with expertise in the country to which you are considering because such matters are fiendishly complicated – and also about to change…


On 17th August 2015 EU legislation on “forced heirship” is changing. According to Regulation number 650/2012, any person owning property in a participating EU state (who has taken appropriate action before their death), can choose between the law of the country of their habitual residence, or the law of their nationality to govern the devolution of their EU estate. So with some forward planning – ie amending your will - you will have more control over the fate of your property. Now that is a positive bit of legislation.


We hope that you take on board plenty of useful bits of advice from this guide but if there’s just one thing that you take away and follow through on it’s this; please use an independent lawyer on your overseas home purchase.

A multitude of problems can usually be avoided by doing this one thing, even though it might cost a little extra, the expense might provide priceless peace of mind – and spare you far greater financial losses somewhere down the line.

Some agents or developers may express surprise at your decision to use a lawyer - it may be custom for locals not to do so. The seller of the property may recommend a lawyer to you. But buyer beware, is this lawyer going to be completely impartial?

A truly independent lawyer, who will act to protect your interests, is one that is not working in collaboration with the agent or developer. This is not to say that some lawyers suggested by respectable companies will not be truly independent, but corruption does still exist in various countries, and you should be aware of potential conflicts of interest.

As a buyer in a foreign country (who may not even speak the language), you are, after all, highly vulnerable to exploitation because you probably won’t be familiar with the property-buying process.

In the UK we routinely use a
lawyer when buying or selling a home - we don’t have a choice because the conveyancing process involves solicitors – so why should we not use one in a strange market abroad?

Don’t fail to use one because you want to save money or because you can’t find one.

Typically, fees for an overseas lawyer are 1-1.5 per cent of the purchase price, with a minimum fee so factor this into your purchase budget from the start. Get someone lined up early on and make sure they can translate documents for you as well as carrying out all the relevant checks.

So how do you find someone with no conflicting interests in the transaction who will work exclusively for you?

Recommendation from another buyer is one route, although a good starting point is the AIPP, because we have law firms as members (aipp.org.uk). Are they members of, or accredited to, any other legal bodies? But don’t assume that seniority – such as being in a country’s Bar Association – equals pure ethics.

Another route is through the British consulates overseas, who usually keep a list of lawyers they recommend.

Don’t confuse the role of notary for that of a personal lawyer: in many European countries notaries are legal representatives of the state whose job is to oversee and rubber-stamp property transactions.
They will draw up the deeds, but their impartial position means it is not their responsibility to indicate whether the deeds are in favour of either the vendor or the buyer.

In comparison, the role of a lawyer is the same as in the UK in that they are acting in your interests so will do all necessary due diligence for you, ensuring your purchase contract achieves everything you expect and have agreed on.

Never sign a sales contract or mortgage agreement without having it checked by your lawyer.

Their remit includes searches on the property, the land it stands on, planning permissions, and whether it carries any debts or encumbrances.

They will act as facilitator between the different parties involved in the transaction, and also advise you on related issues such as finance, taxation and inheritance law.


If you are moving abroad full-time, rather than just buying a holiday home, then there are some practical things you need to consider. On many of these you will need to plan ahead, especially if you have children who will need to start a new school at the beginning of an academic year.


Application deadlines for international schools tend to be in January for the autumn intake, so schedule exploratory visits the autumn before. With a rising demand for such schools (globally it has increased 7 percent per year) you can’t just assume you will automatically get a place.


If you move abroad permanently you will become a tax resident of that country. The rules surrounding tax residency can be complicated so seek advice before you move, and the timing of when you move from one country to another can provide tax advantages. Consult companies that specialize in giving tax advice to expats.


Apart from using a currency broker to move funds across to your new country, consider simplifying your pension affairs before you move. You may wish to transfer your pension from the UK to a recognized scheme in your adopted country
(a QROPS) but what are the pros and cons? Weigh up the options and check your entitlement to a state pension at retirement age: get a pension forecast at www. direct.gov.uk. Also, always allow some cash for contingencies and consult a regulated financial advisor if you have any queries.


Benefits may be affected by your move abroad so find out what you will be entitled to. If you are moving within the EU you will have rights, plus even outside (in countries such as Canada or New Zealand) there are still a number of reciprocal social security arrangements. Check with the Department for Work and Pensions: www.dwp.gov.uk.


What medical treatment will you be entitled to in your new country? Research this and the cost of private options. Some countries have a contributory system, others payas-you-go GP visits etc. Find out more at www.gov.uk.


Assuming you have a UK will for your UK assets, check it is up to date before you go and make a new one in your new country to cover property and other assets there.


Planning the actual move starts long before you want to go, when you need to gather estimates from relocation companies and check your passport is up to date. Always keep a copy of your passport somewhere safe. You will also need to start notifying insurance companies, banks, GPs, dentists etc of your move. Any pets? Moving your pet can be the most complicated and/or expensive part of your move abroad!


Will you sell your car before you leave or take it with you? Compare costs and legalities. In some countries buying a car can be prohibitively expensive due to import duties (Turkey, for example). Can you use your UK licence initially before transferring to a European or International Driving Permit (IDP) which must be obtained before you leave the UK?


When you arrive you will need to register with the local authorities, and apply for a residence permit. In some countries this will involve getting an identity number; in others you may need to register with the police. If you haven’t already done so through buying a property, you will need to open a bank account too. Will you be entitled to vote? Visit aboutmyvote.co.uk


In recent years the holiday home letting business has proven to be the fastest growing sector in the travel industry. Alongside the ongoing popularity of the self-catering holiday is the rise of the “sharing economy” of renting out your home(s) to strangers, as shown by the success of Airbnb.

There are plenty of instances of owners turning to rental returns to help pay for tax rises, cover mortgages or rising living costs. In fact more and more – now around 60% - rely on rentals to cover the costs of running their overseas home, and there’s growing competition between home owners.

So don’t assume that just by taking a few photos and uploading them on a holiday rentals website that the bookings will come flooding in.

You will need to consider carefully several key aspects…


How can this suit your objectives? What sort of occupancy levels will you need? Is a dual-season or year-round sun destination going to provide longer seasons? In winter-sun locations such as the Canaries and Florida, three-month lets to “snowbirds” are quite common; the lower weekly income offered by long-term lets can be balanced out by lower management and marketing costs. Golf or mountain resorts can be popular all year. Also, what about access? How easily reached by your target audience?


Set yourself apart from the rest in terms of presentation, USPs, wow factors, affordability and/or marketing. Clients tend to expect Wifi and that welcome bottle of wine, but how can you make your offering truly memorable? Make sure you “sell” the property’s plus points, whether it’s styling a lunch laid out on the terrace, or showing in pictures how the garden may be used.


Consider creating your own website, alongside using the popular portals; embrace social media and last-minute deals if you have void weeks. Provide customer feedback as part of your advertising. One agency has reported that offering feedback is now one of the things that all their most successful properties share (and note that you must request it to receive it).


Are you permitted to rent out your property for short term (holiday) lets? Is there zoning (Florida) or specific regulations within a complex? In Spain, some regional governments have clamped down on holiday lets (especially the Canaries) so take legal advice on this: not just the word of an agent. Also, have you got the relevant insurance, do you need a licence and do you conform to local safety regulations?


How will you manage the bookings and/or running the property? Ask yourself if you are going to be able to respond to booking enquiries yourself speedily, or is it worth using an agency? Doing this all yourself can be hard work or impractical: how do you find a plumber at 11pm for your home in Spain? Most people have a local person on hand to deal with key handover and potential problems – so don’t forget to factor-in management costs of 10-15 per cent typically.


Once you’ve got bookings coming in, you will need to organise your finances. You will need to pay income tax on lets so investigate the tax locally and what running costs/community charges you will have and also what insurance you will need as a landlord. Consider what currency you will receive your rental income in, and how you will pay management costs locally.

One WINAGENT has reported that offering feedback is now one of the things that all their most successful properties share

(and note that you must request it to receive it)