I've had a couple of emails over the past few months from would-be ex-pat investors and landlords who are finding it impossible to obtain mortgages for properties in Northern Ireland while living overseas - the most recent was an enquiry from a Belfast man living in Qatar.
I love a challenge, so I set about investigating the options. Never say never! Close contacts in the mortgage brokerage industry were similarly stumped - lenders won't deal with brokers for ex-pat mortgages.
They advised checking with the 'big' banks - Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide - and I dutifully did.
Nationwide offer buy-to-let mortgages through a subsidiary known as The Mortgage Works but they don't offer mortgages on Northern Ireland properties, and none of their products and services are available to those living outside the UK.
HSBC don't exclude Northern Ireland residents but the information on their website was a little ambiguous. Under eligibility criteria for buy-to-let mortgages they state:
You must have owned and lived in your existing property for at least 6 months
The property must be in the UK
"The property must be in the UK" - does this refer to the investment property or the "existing property" you live in? If the latter, that would rule out HSBC too, obviously.
At time of publishing we are waiting for a response from HSBC and we'll update the blog when we get one.
However, I've saved the best for last - step forward, Barclays! Their press office confirmed that they can lend to Northern Ireland buyers living abroad, subject to some conditions. They told me:
"Barclays has a range of Buy-to Let mortgages available. The Bank will consider applications from UK citizens currently living abroad, and who are looking to purchase a Buy to Let property in Northern Ireland.
"This would be subject to individual circumstances, including a full credit assessment and affordability checks.
"In these circumstances, our eligibility criteria include a requirement for the borrower to become a customer of Barclays Premier Global Clients (if not already) and have a minimum gross income of £75,000 (sterling equivalent)."
We'd love to hear from any ex-pat landlords and investors who may be able to share further advice and insight into this issue.
Are you living abroad with a mortgage on a Northern Ireland house that you let to tenants? Do you own outright or have a mortgage? How do you manage the property?
I love helping our readers solve these problems, so do get in touch if you have any property puzzles you'd like me to untangle for you. The email address is email@example.com or you can use our contact form.