Foreign Home Buyers
- What exactly are your ownership and voting rights within the association?
- What percentage of the common expenses are you be liable for – many units offer different floor plans of various sizes, with each one making up a percentage
- What restrictions are in place regarding the common elements and your unit?
- Is there planning in place for further units to be constructed? Â If so, how many and when?
- Does the developer have any options NOT to complete any of the facilities or amenities?
- Is there a history of resident complaints at the condominium?
- Is the Condominium Association currently involved in any form of litigation?
- Does the Condominium Association have reserved funds set aside for maintenance projects and future capital expenditures?
- What about pets – are there ANY restrictions?
- Can you rent or sell your condo without restrictions?
- Are there any restrictions regarding family and friends using, staying with, or occupying the unit?
Why Use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent When Purchasing a House?
Buying a house is one of the most significant undertakings you’ll make in your entire life. It’s not simply about finding the right home for you and your family; more than anything, buying a house is about making the right financial investment on a long-term basis.
Before you even put down your earnest money deposit, an exceptional buyer’s agent will have been doing several things for you, including searching for the right property and starting the due diligence process when you do. There are a plethora of reasons you should turn to a buyer’s agent when you start the house-buying process. The most important of which is that an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent owes you a fiduciary and never lists properties. There is no conflict of interest.
Below are some of the most essential reasons to hire a buyer’s agent when purchasing your next house:
1. It’s Free
One of the first things you need to know about hiring a buyer’s agent is that it’s not going to cost you anything. That’s right; 99 percent of the time it won’t cost you a dime!
A buyer’s agent will be paid by the home seller once the home is sold. Not only is it free, but a buyer’s rep will be saving you both time and money. As always, it’s essential to have a good working relationship with an agent. In other words, make sure you find one that you feel comfortable working with.
2. Going to the Listing Agent Isn’t Smart
For some reason, lots of buyers think they’ll get a better deal if they go to the seller’s agent. This is one of the biggest myths in real estate and could cost you considerable money in the long run. Quite often, buyers think if they go to the seller’s agent, they’ll give them back some of the commission. While this may be true, the agent works in the best interests of the seller, or in the case of Florida where they are transactional agents…themselves! Not you!
Saving a couple thousand dollars in commission but overpaying on a home by $10,000 works out to a net loss of $8,000! In addition, the agent is going to be doing everything in their power to close the sale, not what’s best for you. Avoiding dual agency is something every smart buyer does. Always have your own designated buyer’s agent.
3. Professional Experience
A buyer’s agent should have the right kind of professional experience in finding the right home for you. Finding the right property is a time-consuming process, and it’s easy to find yourself spending hours viewing properties that are not right for you. It’s crucial to have a bit of help, especially if you’re a first time home buyer or a very busy person. Having an agent screening the properties for you can save you lots of time. Not only that, but they’ll also view properties to make sure they’re in good order.
A buyer’s agent who has been in the business for a long time will pick up on common problems, and can advise you before you even get in the car about the neighborhood, what the location issues may be with the home and the general condition of the property.
4. How Well Do You Know the Area?
Having a buyer’s agent on board when you move to a new town or part of the country is especially vital. After all, you may not know the area that well. Having someone with local knowledge means that you’re much more likely to end up investing in a property in the “right” part of town. An exceptional agent that services primarily buyers will know their way around the local area well. They’ll know the popular neighborhoods that are appealing to most buyers and those that aren’t.
Also, an agent will make sure the amenities that are important to you are close by. Schools and leisure facilities are often on the top of most homebuyers’ agenda.
5. Valuation and Finance
Valuing a property is not easy when you don’t have a lot of experience. When you’re buying your first or second home, you’ll need all of the help that you can get. Nothing beats turning to a professional to help you purchase a property at fair market value, or less, if you’re lucky. One of the best skills of a buyer’s agent is to be able to evaluate the right purchase price for the home.
Financing can be a nightmare, as well. Sure, you may have your mortgage pre-approval, but when it comes to buying a home and financing it, there’s often a mountain of paperwork to work through. A buyer’s agent will help you to do so, and make sure the process stays on track. They explain fundamental real estate terms you might not be familiar with. For example, a significant percentage of buyers don’t know the difference between earnest money and a down payment. Understanding the function of each of these things is crucial for a buyer to understand. There are a myriad of others, such as insurance, HOA approvals, inspections, and more.
6. How Much Time Do You Have for Your Showings?
Not having a buyer’s agent can mean you end up at a lot of showings or viewings that aren’t right for you. When you contract in a buyer’s agent at the start of the process, they’ll make sure that they schedule everything for you. It’s like having your own personal assistant. Tell them when you’re free, and they’ll do most of the work for you.A listing agent will take you to their listings first, regardless of whether or not they are suited for you…..they need to make sure their Sellers feel like their homes are getting shown.
7. The Value of Contracts
Never underestimate the value of contracts when it comes to buying a home. Arrangements are not only about money; timelines are established in the purchase contract, as well. A buyer’s agent will make sure you follow through with any necessary responses required under the terms of the contract. This is critical because not doing so could put your escrow funds at risk of loss.
An excellent agent will keep you informed and on track so that you don’t lose any of your escrow funds. There’s also an abundance of smaller details you need to deal with before you sign on the dotted line. Many of them form part of modern-day contract law. Changing regulations are something else a buyer’s agent will help you with.
8. Professional Contacts
Once you’ve bought your first home, you’ll appreciate how many people form part of the buying process. It’s not just you and your bank manager. You’ll also need the help of other professionals, such as a home inspector. What if the home inspector picks up a problem during the inspection, and you need an estimate for work? A buyer’s agent is likely to have the right contacts at their fingertips, and will also be familiar with the process.
9. A Buyer’s Agent: Your Negotiator
Many of us don’t like to negotiate, and we’re not always that good at it. You may like the seller and don’t want to upset them. After all, we’re only human. It’s hard to say “no,” or ask someone you like to drop the price or negotiate a needed repair.
Let’s go back to that home inspection that picked up a slight problem. Ask yourself if you have the skill, and confidence, to renegotiate the price of the property. It takes both to close a deal. Once again, this is something that your buyer’s agent can do for you.
10. Let’s Stay on Schedule
Staying on schedule is an important part of the process of buying a home. You may need to get out of your old house on a specific date, or you may have a starting date for a new job. Trying to pack up your old home and keeping the ball rolling is not easy.
Many buyers don’t realize that a buyer’s agent will keep things going while you focus on moving out of your property or drive across the country to take up that promotion you’re getting.
An exclusive buyer agent will have your back at all times. That is perhaps the best way to look at the relationship. They’re your fiduciary in the strongest sense of the word. Once it’s all over, you’ll be glad that you decided to ask for the help of a buyer’s agent instead of going through the buying process on your own!
FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) Withholding is the Withholding of Tax on Dispositions of United States Real Property Interests
The disposition of a U.S. real property interest by a foreign person (the transferor) is subject to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA) income tax withholding.
FIRPTA authorized the United States to tax foreign persons on dispositions of U.S. real property interests.
Persons purchasing U.S. real property interests (“transferee”) from foreign persons, certain purchasers’ agents, and settlement officers are required to withhold 15% of the amount realized.
Withholding is intended to ensure U.S. taxation of gains realized on disposition of such interests. The transferee/buyer is the withholding agent. If you are the transferee/buyer you must find out if the transferor is a foreign person. If the transferor is a foreign person and you fail to withhold, you may be held liable for the tax.
One of the most common exceptions to FIRPTA withholding is that the transferee (purchaser/buyer) is not required to withhold tax in a situation in which the purchaser/buyer purchases real estate for use as his home and the purchase price is not more than $300,000. However, buyers should be aware that while they may meet the withholding exemption they are still responsible for the seller’s tax liability, interest and penalties should the seller not file a US income tax return to report the sale and pay any relevant taxes.
Note to Non-Resident Buyers – If you purchase property from a non-resident seller and an exception to FIRPTA withholding does not apply then you must ensure that FIRPTA is satisfied as part of the closing. Check your settlement statement prior to closing where you should see 15% of the sales price withheld on the seller’s side of the settlement statement. Request a copy of the withholding certificate from the closing agent and, if withholding was calculated, request a copy of forms 8288, 8288-A and front and back of cancelled check. Retain these documents in a safe place along with your settlement statement and other closing documents.
Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) Withholding
U.S. Tax law requires that a non-resident alien who sells an interest in U.S. real property is subject to withholding, for tax purposes, of 15% of the gross sales price (i.e. $45,000 on a property with a sales price of $300,000). The withheld amount is required to be forwarded to the IRS, by the Closing Agent, within 20 days of the date of closing. These funds are held until the IRS is satisfied that all taxes due by the non-resident are paid. In order to apply for a refund you can either:-
File U.S. tax returns for each year that rental income was received, reporting all income and expenses; file a final U.S. tax return in the year following the year of sale, to report the sale and recover the balance of cleared funds. This process can take up to eighteen months depending on when, during the tax year, the property is sold.
File prior year tax returns (where required) plus an application for early release of cleared withholding on or before the date of closing. By making this submission, the 10% withholding remains with the Closing Agent whilst the IRS processes the Withholding Application and issues a Withholding Certificate for the cleared funds – usually around 90 days.
Please note that applying for and receiving a Withholding Certificate does not eliminate your requirement to file a final U.S. income tax return to report the sale transaction. In fact, when your final tax return is filed you may receive a further tax refund depending on the number of owners and length of time that the property was held.
In order to ensure a timely release of your funds it is extremely important that the following is obtained PRIOR to closing:-
Buyer’s names, address and SSNs – if U.S. Citizens
Buyer’s names, address and ITINs – if non residents
Or, if the buyers are non residents and do not have ITINs, the buyer’s completed Form W-7 (one per buyer) and authenticated copy of the picture page of their passport(s)
Without this information the Application for a Withholding Certificate and early refund will be rejected. We suggest that you request your Realtor prepare your sales contract contingent upon the buyers providing the above information.
Who’s responsible for FIRPTA withholding on the sale of U.S. property?
Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) was established in 1980 to ensure the withholding of estimated amount of taxes which may be due on the gain from the disposition or transfer of a U.S. real property interest from a foreign person.
If you purchase U.S. real property from a foreign individual or corporation then you are required to make sure that the seller pays any taxes due on the property. The buyer must execute or have executed the correct forms including the sellers name, address and social security number or individual taxpayer identification number. 15% of the gross sales price must be withheld and submitted to IRS or held in escrow whilst an application for reduced FIRPTA withholding is timely filed and processed.
If the buyer does not take care of the withholding and the seller is a foreign entity who leaves without paying their tax then 15% will be taken from the buyer.
Most buyers are unaware that it is their responsibility to determine if the transferor/seller is a foreign person and subject to FIRPTA withholding. In reality, the settlement agent (Title Company or Attorney) may be instructed to deduct the 15% and submit to IRS or hold in escrow whilst an application for reduced FIRPTA withholding is submitted to IRS for processing.
Moving to a new house, city or state is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. Even when everything goes smoothly, you’ll likely be exhausted when all is said and done. Whether it’s down the street or across the country, moving is a major task that requires much effort and coordination. For this reason, many people choose to hire a moving company, but knowing who to entrust your belongings can be a daunting task.
While you do have the option of going the DIY route when moving, things will be so much easier and more convenient for you if you hire professional movers instead. You’ll incur certain costs by doing so, but the help they can provide is worth it.
It’s also a common mistake to hire the first moving company you lay your eyes on in an ad. There are so many moving companies out there, but not all are created equal. The movers you should hire are legitimate ones with licenses, insurance and other vital considerations. You should also get quotes from at least three movers to determine the best deal. Ask for references and verifying credentials. And remember to never pre-pay for a move!
There are many kinds of moving companies depending on the type of move you’re looking to make. Some companies specialize in local moves and will have limitations on the distance they’re willing to travel. Local movers are great for small cross-town moves since they typically charge by the hour.
If you’re moving across the country, you’ll want to find a long-distance mover. These movers have special licensing that allows them to operate across state lines and they typically charge a bulk rate based on how quickly you need to be moved and how many items you’ll be moving. In some circumstances, you may even need to move out of the country. International movers will help you pack and get your items overseas. These moving companies are usually prepared for immigration and customs issues.
If you want a completely stress-free move, you should consider a full-service moving company. These companies take all the hassle out of your move by disassembling and packing up your old house and then unpacking and reassembling everything in your new place. Additionally, they provide all of the materials so you don’t have to worry about how much tape you’ll need or what size boxes to get.
For many a foreign national, the United States has always been a great place to invest in.
Buying Real Estate in the United States does not give foreign owners any rights or privileges regarding legal stay or status. If you’re interested in staying in the states longer than allowed by a standard visa, contact an immigration lawyer.
By determining the primary use for your property and how long you plan to own it, you’ll be able to provide information to your real estate agent that will help guide the search and sale.
How will you use the Property?
Before you start your property search, it’s important to think ahead to how you’ll use the home once the deal is done.
- Will this be a vacation home?
- A home to stay in while doing business in the United States?
- A home for your children while they attend college in the States?
- An investment?
- An eventual long-term residence?
The way U.S. real estate transactions are carried out may differ from your home country. Each State in the US has its own set of rules regarding the purchase of real estate, including the type of purchase contract used, the method of closing the sale and even the duties and titles of the individuals involved.
Several important U.S. real estate practices that are worth noting are:
- In the United States, real estate listing information is shared by agents using multiple listing services ( MLS) and consumers can access that same information using real estate sites such as com or Realtor.com. In many other parts of the world, real estate is a fragmented business and buyers have to go from agent to agent to find a property.
- In some countries, it is typical to pay a fee to the agents who are scouting properties on your behalf and showing you around. In the United States, the sales commission is paid by the seller who has a listing agreement with the Seller, so buyers don’t pay anything to have an agent work on their behalf if it is being advertised in the MLS system. It is always advisable for a buyer to work with an Exclusive Buyer Agent who will protect the buyer’s interest in the transaction. Make sure you ask any agent you contact what their “agency relationship” is to you. Each state has different forms of agency and many agents do not work for the benefit of the Buyer.
- In the United States, real estate agents need licenses to operate. The licensing laws of each state differ regarding how much education is required, the type and depth of licensing examinations, and whether continuing education courses are required once an agent becomes licensed. The licensing system was designed to ensure real estate agents are qualified to guide consumers through the maze of finding, evaluating and financing real estate.
Foreign buyers will also want to give consideration to issues such as currency exchange rates, international wire transfers, banking systems, multi-national taxation and accounting issues, and import/export restrictions regarding currency and household goods. It is recommended that you consult with an accountant and attorney before finalizing any transaction.
Foreign buyers are eligible to buy single-family homes, condominiums, duplexes, triplexes, quadru-plexes and townhomes. Housing cooperatives or co-ops often have rules prohibiting foreign ownership. That’s because co-ops generally require that a buyer’s source of income be from the United States and that most of the majority of the buyer’s assets be kept in the U.S.
Financing or Paying Cash?
Qualified foreign buyers with a 30 to 40 percent down payment can often obtain financing for their U.S. real estate purchases. MANY BANKS REQUIRE FOREIGN BUYERS to have a specific amount ($100,000 or more) on deposit with the bank while others set loan limits of $1 million to $2 million. You may also be required to present a minimum of three months of bank statements.
The U.S. home loan market offers an array of safe, affordable mortgages, including some that will allow Muslims to buy a home without violating Islamic laws against paying interest.
Before applying for a U.S. mortgage, you must first establish credit and earn a good credit score. You can start building your credit score by opening U.S. bank and credit card accounts. You’ll also want to be sure to report all income on your tax returns. Lenders use this income information to determine how much money they’re willing to loan you to buy a home.
While you don’t necessarily need to be a citizen or even have a green card to buy a home in the U.S., you will need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
All cash purchases are permitted, but U.S. law mandates that cash transactions over $10,000 be reported to the federal government. The requirement for reporting involves everyone connected to the transaction (purchaser, real estate agents, attorneys and title companies). The government wants to know how you earned the money and that it was legally obtained. Cash buyers can potentially save money on mortgage application fees, loan origination fees, appraisals and title insurance.
Should I purchase U.S. property in my name?
Foreign investors can purchase property directly – in their own names – or through some sort of business entity, such as a domestic corporation, foreign corporation, limited partnership, joint venture, real estate investment trust or limited liability company.
How the property will be used should play into your decision. Additionally, the structure through which you purchase your property can have dramatic tax consequences. Your real estate attorney and accountant should be able to provide counsel concerning your options.
Do I have to travel to the U.S. for the closing?
While you may very well want to attend your real estate closing, it is not necessary. In the event that you cannot or choose not to attend your closing, you must execute a “Power of Attorney.” This is a written document authorizing another person to represent you and sign on your behalf. Some lenders may require that you be present in the US to sign their loan documents. This is something you should inquire about when selecting a lender if you do not plan on traveling for the closing.
How will a U.S. real estate purchase affect my taxes?
A foreign property owners’ tax liability in his home country will vary depending upon where the purchaser is from and whether that country has a tax treaty with the United States. Consult a tax attorney familiar with your home country’s treaty to get answers to tax-related questions.
The United States government requires that foreign nationals pay U.S. income taxes (state and federal) on any net income (rental revenues less expenses) received from rental property. If tax returns are not filed in a timely fashion, a tax of 30 percent of the gross rental income may be assessed. Even if you’re incurring losses in the early years of your investment and you don’t owe any taxes to the government, you still must file your tax returns in a timely manner or be subject to financial penalty.
What is FIRPTA?
FIRPTA refers to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980. This ruling authorizes the United States to withhold income tax when property is sold, exchanged, gifted, transferred or liquidated by a foreigner. The Internal Revenue Service takes 15 percent of the proceeds and the state government will also take a percentage (if applicable). When a US tax return is submitted reporting the capital gains tax, if there is any refund due, that money will be refunded to the filer.
If the buyer of the home from the foreign national investor will reside in the home more than 50% of the time and the home sales price is under $300,000.00, the purchaser is not obligated to retain the 15% tax.