Some people dream of moving to America because of its warm, easygoing people and the more relaxed life style. Either that or, for the working person, it is perceived as the land of opportunity, the land where wishes and ambitions are fulfilled. Entrepreneurial business people find plenty of opportunities in the States, and what many Brits also find so appealing about moving to the USA is that there are few language barriers or major cultural differences. This makes an enormous difference business-wise or for people thinking of moving with children as schooling will not be a major upheaval for them.
Sunny Florida is the preferred choice for a warmer, more outdoors type lifestyle, an important requirement for many potential UK emigrants. If it’s space you’re after then the Lone Star state of Texas may be the place for you, while Houston is considered one of the major centre’s of technology, energy, manufacturing and aeronautics; it also boasts the headquarters of more Fortune 500 companies than any city apart from New York.
America has something for everyone, especially those who are willing to work hard at making the great American Dream happen for them.
There are no restrictions to foreigners buying property anywhere in the USA. However, taxes and general buying requirements do differ across the country, from State to State and it is essential to seek out the services of a professional lawyer in the State you are looking in order to understand local procedure.
Be aware that although there is no language barrier, this is still a foreign country and it is important to understand the rules and visa requirements, including restrictions on time spent in the country as a foreigner well in advance of looking for your property.
The costs involved in purchasing a property in the USA vary according to individual factors involved in the purchase agreement, the type of loan, and Federal and State laws which differ from State to State. As a general rule of thumb you should allow 3-6% of the cost of the property for all fees applicable. These costs consist of all searches, administration in dealing with the down payment for the property, fees involved in setting up any loan, inspection fee, mortgage insurance, title insurance, stamp duty and survey. The costs of your estate agent – or realtor in the USA – are paid for by the seller.
Before you start to look for a property or select a realtor (estate agent) to assist you in your purchase, it is wise to consider your finances and have any mortgage you may have applied for ready in principle. You may consider either a UK mortgage or search for one from a US mortgage broker. UK mortgage companies will generally fund up to 70% of the purchase price. Requirements vary from State to State in the USA regarding mortgage applications so it is wise to consult a mortgage broker at the outset. This will not only assist you in knowing how much you can afford to spend on your property, it will aid your credibility with both agents and sellers when it comes to the point of making a serious offer. Most USA mortgage companies will ask for a down payment of 20% for non-US nationals and you will need to provide proof of income and identity and details of your bank account and credit cards.
Next you must consider visa and residency requirements. You are permitted to stay for 90 days anywhere in the USA under the Visa Waiver Program or you can apply for B-2 Tourist Visa which will entitle you to stay in the country for up to 6 months. It may be possible, once you enter the US, to apply for an “extension of stay”. If you are planning to move permanently to the USA you will need to change your status to “permanent resident” (Green Card). This will require the services of an immigration lawyer. Note that simply owning a property in the USA does not affect any of the above.
Buying a home overseas is one of the most significant purchases you will make. It is wise to invest in the services of a US qualified lawyer to ease the whole process including your property purchase, visa status, tax status etc.
When you put an offer in for a property you accept it in the condition it is in at the time and you will not be able to bring up any defects after the deal is closed. It is therefore vital to make certain that you are aware and happy with the state of the property before the sale is closed. You may wish to have a survey or “Inspection Report” carried out on the property before buying it as this will enable you to negotiate with the seller if there are any defects you feel should be dealt with prior to your buying the property.
Once the first contract is signed, a closing date will be earmarked. This is the date on which all the obligations of the contract need to be finalised and will generally be approximately 30 days from the signing of the contract for sale or first contract.
Between the signing of the first contract and the closing of the sale, title insurance should be obtained to protect you should any situation arise in which the title may be “clouded”. This means that another person may have an interest in the property which may not have been disclosed such as a previous lender having a partial claim on the title. Title insurance protects you, the buyer, from any expenses or loss you may experience as a result of such a defect or “cloud”.
Expert advice is essential before buying a property in the USA. Understanding the home buying process and your tax and visa status is key to pursuing a stress free and successful purchase of property.