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International Buyer's Guide

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International Buyer’s Guide

Buying Tips

The real estate market in the United States is a global marketplace.

It has been stated that foreign buyers bought more than 68.2 billion dollars of residential real estate in the United States. The National Association has shown that statistic along with 6% of total home sales have been foreign buyers.

This guide will help you with all the details necessary for purchasing in an unfamiliar market. It does not matter whether you're an investor or simply someone looking to find a home away from home. This guide although helpful should not replace an experienced realtor, attorney, real estate agent or mortgage broker.

How will you use the property

Before starting, you should think about what is important to you when selecting a property. Think about what the purpose of this home will be once it’s acquired and your short-term/long-term goals.

  • Vacation home?
  • A home for your children while they’re in school?
  • A home to live in only when doing business in the country?
  • A Long-term residence? Maybe to retire in the states?
  • An investment home?

PURCHASING REAL ESTATE in the U.S, does not by any means help or give you advantages regarding legal status. Always be sure to contact your immigration lawyer regarding longer stays than a standard visa allows. If you are able to determine what you will need and how long you plan on keeping it. Your real estate agent can be a great guide for you to find the perfect property.

Understand how the Market Works

You have to keep in mind that every state in the US has its own sets of rules when it comes to purchasing real estate. This can be different from your home country. Since this is the case, you must understand that the contract used, and the closing and sale of a property might be different between states.

Important Real Estate Procedures:

  • The Multiple Listing Service or MLS - Your agent can search for your desired property criteria among all the properties available at a given time.
  • All agents need a license to show and sell property. Just like sales of property the licensing for agents differ from state to state. Not only is the licensing different but the amount of education required to fulfill state licensing is different between states. This system was set to make sure each agent is more than capable of finding a great home for the clients and to be able to produce and evaluate financing home sales.
  • In general, the commission for the purchase of a property is not paid by the buyer but by the seller. The buyer may need to pay a broker transaction fee which can range from $500-$1000 depending on the real estate company’s policy.
  • International buyers should keep in mind the difference in currency between countries and the exchange rates. International wire transfer fees, and taxes acquired by multinational transactions. Also the different restriction of importing or exporting different household goods and currency.
Work with PROFESSIONALS in Real Estate

It is highly recommended to take the time and do your research on finding someone that is qualified and professional to help you through the purchasing process.

If you assemble a good team filled with qualified personnel, it will lead to less stress for you during the purchase process. So do your due diligence in researching website, and agents, ask for referrals, check references, look for someone who understands you. This will all benefit you in finding the right property and making it a smooth transition and transaction.

Do not forget to keep in mind your ability to speak the language. If you don’t feel confident in your fluency of English it is recommended you find an agent, attorney and banker that you feel comfortable speaking to in your native language. Although they might be capable of giving you translated documents final documents will most likely be in English.

What you need to know about Financing

For some international buyers that are qualified banks are willing to finance if they put down 30 to 50 percent down payment. Most banks require the buyer to have a specific amount of money in the bank as reserves, usually 12-24 months of principal interest, property taxes, and insurance payment. There is usually a minimum loan amount required of $150,000 or more.

Financing may be available to foreign buyers if they are from a country with credit reporting capabilities. An international credit reports will be required to obtain financing. Bank statements demonstrating assets and reserve funds will also be required and will need to be translated into English. The lender will order the translation of documents and bill you. This may cost to $400 to $600 generally. And appraisal, by a licensed appraiser, will be required and is paid for by the buyer. The typical timeline from contract to closing ranges from 30 days to 60 days depending on the buyers and seller agreement.

Although purchasing a property is already quite an expense make sure you are aware of the expenses that you come into when owning the property. Be ready to have a plan for the finances of the home once acquired. Things like yearly taxes upon the property, insurance for your home that is all inclusive to the state you are purchasing in, and the regular cost for maintenance of a home.

Property and Cash purchase

It is well know that cash speaks, and when it comes to buying property here or abroad it is a form of purchasing with no hassle. Having the available income or cash is crucial for a smooth and easy transaction. This will not only help you with finalizing the deal that much quicker but you can even ask for a bigger discounts or incentives just because you're paying cash. Cash is highly recommended when the property you are looking to acquire is already constructed or in other terms ready to move in.

Tax Tips

It may seem that buying property in the United States is easier than in most countries. The real estate market is open and there is no ban on foreign investment in property either personal or corporate. Although be aware the U.S. real estate market can be difficult to understand, it depends on the location of the property and market conditions. In each state there are individual rules and regulations regarding property transfer. This meaning 50 different rules and regulations. It is valuable to be educated at the before making decisions, particularly in the matter of purchase that relates to U.S. taxes. We can help you find a qualified accountant and attorney to advise you in these matters.

While you are encouraged to contact an experienced real estate agent and an expert tax accountant, we have compiled five tips to help you begin the process:

  1. Mortgage options: According to U.S. Census results, 70 percent of homes in the U.S. are mortgaged. Mortgages are also a large part of the banking industry. It will take quite a bit of documentation to obtain mortgages from U.S. banks, but mortgage rates are low and the interest paid on the loan is tax deductible on your U.S. taxes, if you have taxable income, or if you should choose to rent. There are multiple benefits to mortgaging property in a U.S. bank: banks require the transfer of title; property insurance; and escrow accounts that pay property taxes and insurance. Foremost your mortgage provider should provide you with an annual statement for tax purposes detailing interest, real estate taxes and property insurance paid for in the preceding year.
  2. Paying taxes in the U.S: Property owners in the United States must pay annual property taxes based on the value of their property. This amount varies by county and state. In general, property taxes are less in the southwest such as Las Vegas, Nevada or Scottsdale, Arizona..
  3. Filing taxes: Nonresident aliens are taxed on U.S. investment income and their U.S. trade or business income (Sec. 871); so depending upon the purpose of your purchase, you may or may not be required to file income tax returns. If you plan on renting, there might be a possibility of filing with business or a trade, this allows deductions and losses from the activity to be claimed on your U.S. taxes. We can assist you with hiring an accountant who will be preparing your annual tax return.
  4. Buying through a corporation or LLC: Some foreign buyers choose to purchase real estate to an LLC or Corporation. There are many advantages to buying property in this manner but they are costs associated with forming your LLC or Corporation. We work with experienced attorneys who can assist you in forming your LLC or Corporation if you choose to purchase using one of these options.

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