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Dealing with Foreign Buyers: What Realtors Need to Know

By Mike Wheatley | January 10, 2012

US real estate is proving to be very attractive to foreign buyers right now, lured by the combination of a relatively weak dollar and low, low prices.

Foreign investors

When handling foreign buyers, real estate agents need to be expert bankers, immigration experts and a whole lot more besides

Yet for foreign buyers, investing in a US property is not always that simple - foreigners have all kinds of issues to deal with regarding visas, currency rules and real estate regulations - all things that don't affect American buyers. And guess who they turn to for help? That's right, more often than not it will be their real estate agent they look towards to guide them through the process.

The following tips, first published in the Miami Herald, can help real estate professionals ensure that their foreign client’s transactions go through smoothly:

Real estate agents need to help their clients structure their deals correctly. For foreigners, it's recommended that they buy property under a corporate entity's name rather than their personal name, to avoid complicated tax issues both here and in their home countries. The best bet is to use an offshore corporate entity to buy the property, although a local LLC owned by a foreign company is also okay.

Aside from ownership, finance is also an issue. If the client intends to transfer money from a bank in their home country, they need to realize that doing so is a slow and complicated process, and that the American government will likely want to ask questions about the fund's origins too. In addition, foreign buyers need to be made aware that full financing is no longer possible with most lenders. Since the mortgage crisis, foreigners are only likely to secure around 50% funding in the US, and will have to stump up the rest by themselves.

The final big hurdle for foreigners is their immigration status, and once again clients may look to their realtor for assistance with this. It might be that a simple tourist visa will suffice if the client only spends a few weeks at a time in the US, but for longer stays something else will be needed. Long term business visas are a possibility for anyone who has investments in the US, or else a student visa is obtainable for most nationalities if they sign up for some kind of educational course. For easy to understand information about the different visas on offer to foreigners, you can check the official State Department website.

For real estate agents, the main thing is to understand enough about the unique issues affecting foreign buyers that their client's worries can be put to rest. So long as everything is carefully planned out, buying a home in the US can be a reality for anyone who wants to live here.

Image © RVC5Pogod -

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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