I regularly advise foreign buyers of U.S. property to maintain a checklist of items to address/consider during the buying process. This helps ensure the buying process goes more smoothly and gives the buyer the requisite time and opportunity to investigate the target U.S. property(ies).
Depending on a given buyer’s intended use, a buyer’s to-do-list would include:
- Investment Potential. Here the motivating factor is investment. The buyer will focus on the property’s anticipated net rental yield (income – expenses), capital appreciation potential, etc. Economic and demographic information for the target city are useful indicators, including population and job growth rates and housing expense ratio.
- Management Company. I have seen international investors self-manage net leases. In other instances, the foreign buyer will want to engage an experienced management company to manage the property(ies).
- Power of attorney. Foreign buyers often do not attend the closing; rather they will grant power of attorney to a local agent (e.g., lawyer) to close on their behalf. In such case, the foreign buyer can set-up an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate to lawfully notarize the power of attorney. The international buyer should plan ahead to meet the relevant closing date.
- Ownership structure. What is the best way to structure the purchase? A corporation or limited liability company is preferable for rental property to shield the buyer from personal liability. Recent change in the tax laws have significantly increased the utility of purchasing via a U.S. domestic corporation (see our Guide on U.S. Property Investment link). Company formation is an easy process in the U.S. and can be performed by an attorney on a modest flat fee basis.
Second or Vacation Home
- Visa. Here the buyer is purchasing the property for personal use. As such, the buyer will want to check to see if he/she is from a visa waiver country or apply for a non-immigrant visa (presumably a B1 or B2 non-immigrant visa) in the buyer’s country of residence.
- Investigate the City and Property. Does the property meet the buyer’s personal needs? Here the focus is on quality (including amenities) as well as the attractiveness of the city as a second or vacation home destination. The buyer may wish to check if there are convenient flights from the buyer’s home country.
- Property Taxes. Get an estimate of the property taxes for the target property.
- University Acceptance. Investigate the universities/schools the foreign buyer’s family member wishes to attend. The targeted universities/schools must be Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified.
- Visa. After admission, the prospective student will apply for an F1 non-immigrant visa in his/her country of residence.