For many Americans, purchasing a home can be a daunting and confusing process. For foreign buyers seeking to purchase real estate in the U.S., the process can be even more complicated.

That said, with America’s economic opportunities and low-interest rates, foreigners are snapping up U.S. real estate in droves. Historically, five countries have accounted for the bulk of purchases: Canada, China, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom. Most of whom view U.S. real estate as a secure and profitable investment.

Whether you’re a foreigner relocating to the U.S. for employment, buying for investment purposes, or interested in a vacation home, it’s crucial to know what to expect as you begin the property-buying process.

What you should know

The US real estate market is very transparent, especially compared to many other countries. Closed sales transaction data becomes publicly available within 60 days after closing.  Broker sales commissions are always paid by the seller (and then divided equally between both the buyer’s and seller’s brokers), so buyers don’t pay anything to have a buyer’s agent working on their behalf. This is called co-broking and represents over 80% of sale transactions in the US.

It is always advisable for a buyer to work with their own buyer agent and not the seller’s agent. An Exclusive Buyer Agent will protect the buyer’s interests in the transaction. The seller’s agent will not, they work for the seller!

Be aware to deter foreign buyers, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vancouver, Melbourne and Sydney all impose an extra stamp duty (ranging from 7% to 30%of the purchase price) on non-residents purchasing property. That’s not the case in the US. Foreign buyers are treated equally as US buyers in this regard.

Avoid Co-ops as they are specifically for primary residences & they require the buyer’s main source of income to be from the US and the bulk of their assets to reside in the US.  Condo’s, townhomes and single- family homes provide more rights to property usage.

Financing is readily available in the U.S. as qualified international buyers can obtain financing for properties through retail banks or private banks. Generally, retail banks will offer these terms:

Buying as an Individual?

Buying as an LLC or Foreign Corp?

Investors who finance their purchases will likely not pay income taxes on the net rental income for the first 10 to 15 years since the US government is very generous in allowing expenses to be deducted from rental income. This is true for both local and foreign investors. Deductions from rent include the following main expenses:

Depending on the home country of a foreign buyer, the overall tax liability may be different than that of a US resident, and may be higher or lower than other foreign buyers. This depends on the tax treaty a foreign buyer’s home country has signed with the US, if any. Consult with a local tax lawyer who is familiar with the specifics of your home country’s US tax treaty for clarity surrounding your specific tax liabilities.

As a bonus, the buyer need not be present at closing, if, they provide “Power of Attorney” to their representative or a Consent to Act letter if using an LLC to purchase the property.

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