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FEATURE: Buying Property in the US - Guide & Information for International Buyers

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Our Local Property Market:
Mountain property has always been a good investment, and projections indicate that values will rise over time, historically, 15% per annum. As metropolitan areas grow, the demand for vacation and second-home property increases, and we are located two hours from four rapidly-growing cities: Atlanta, Asheville, Chattanooga & Knoxville.

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Vineyards are being cultivated more and more in the grape-friendly environment of the Georgia mountains. The mild climate coupled with the precisely right altitudes of our mountain slopes make this location the next likely popular "wine country" of the United States. There are already several successful wineries in the Georgia mountains.

The US Property Market:
The real estate market in and across the United States of America is as varied and expansive as the country itself. Although the age old adage comes off a bit trite and certainly overused, when it comes to real estate investment and other real property purchasing opportunities in the United States, there actually is something for everyone. There are many different opportunities available to the savvy shopper.

Investment Property in America:
In the 21st century, an ever growing number of men and women are electing to make the purchase of investment real estate in the United States. This includes both residents of the U.S. as well as people living abroad who wish to become a part of the generally burgeoning U.S. real estate marketplace. As a general rule, people who are snatching up investment property in the United States are doing so in three different arenas:
  • First, investors are electing to buy into commercial real estate holdings.
  • Second, men and women buying investment property in the United States are also spending a goodly share of their funds on residential rental property.
  • Finally, people who are purchasing investment real estate in the United States are putting at least some of their money into vacation types of properties. 

Residential Realty in USA - Single Family Properties:
The real estate market in the U.S. is as varied as the country itself when it comes to buying property. Depending on where a person is interested in residing, in making the purchase of residential property, will dictate how much money will need to be spent on such a purchase. 

In some cities in the United States -- many of the major cities on both the east and west coasts of the country, for example -- the prices of residential properties continues to increase rather dramatically over time. On the one hand, the ever rising cost associated with the purchase of residential property in some cities in the country is keeping some people out of the housing market all together. There are some cities in the America that are experiencing a flat housing market. In other words, the appraised value of real estate is remaining level and not increasing much over time.

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Holiday Property in America:
One of the most significant trends that has developed in regard to real estate in America in the past twenty years revolves around vacation property. In the 21st century, a growing number of people within the United States -- as well as an increasing share of property owners from abroad -- are investing in vacation and holiday property.

Investment in holiday property generally has been seen to occur in two different areas. First, people both in and out of the United States are making purchases of second homes or vacation homes for their own usage. (In some instances, these people do turn around and rent or lease out their vacation or second homes to other people during those segments of the year when they are not using the property personally.)

Second, men and women residing inside and outside of the United States can also be found investing in time shares in record numbers. A time share situation is one in which a person buys "time" in a piece of real estate. In other words, they are buying an interest in a particular piece of property that interests the purchaser during a specified period of time each and every year.

Mortgage Options:
When considering the options for a mortgage on your overseas property there are a couple of choices to consider;
  1. Do you consider raising finance on your existing property to cover the whole cost of your purchase abroad? A good idea if the interest rate in the country in question is a lot higher than it is in your location as you will pay a lot less in monthly repayments.
  2. Do you secure a mortgage against the property from a local bank in the country of purchase? This can be a wise option especially if the interest rate is lower than your current interest rate. Most overseas mortgage / bank lenders will require up to 30% deposit on mortgages. However, you will need to give some thought to how you will service your mortgage payments each month especially if you are not living or earning in that country as you may well lose out on exchanging money each time to cover monthly expenses. Check out our Foreign Currency page to see how you can save money in this example
  3. Some builders and developers may well offer their own mortgage facilities on their properties for sale. This can be beneficial to both parties depending on the logistics of the mortgage or loan facility. Always check and compare with the two options above before making your final decision.

Specific steps to buying real estate property in America:
A person interested in making the purchase of any kind of real estate in the United States needs to give serious consideration to engaging the assistance of a qualified and licensed broker or of an equally qualified real estate service that has been established to service the needs of those people seeking to purchase investment, residential or vacation property within the U.S. When shopping for real estate in the United States, a buyer needs to keep in mind that the agent or Realtor works for the seller. The real estate agent or Realtor is legally obliged to protect and further the interests of the seller. A person looking to buy property in the United States will want to make very certain that he or she has resources that are specifically knowledgeable about the real estate market in a particular region of the U.S.

One step that a person interested in buying property in America will want to consider taking up front is obtaining a financing commitment from a bona fide lender before beginning the search for specific pieces of real estate. In recent years, in the United States, lenders will extend mortgage facilities to people interested in purchasing real estate (provided that they are credit-worthy) in advance of identifying a particular piece of property for purchase. By having such a lending commitment in hand, a person looking to buy real estate will be in a better position to more efficiently and effectively procure real property in the least amount of time.

When making the purchase of real estate in the United States, the general practice and law in most states is that a purchaser accepts the property in the actual condition it is in at the time of the contract for sale is executed. In other words, a buyer generally buys the property in the condition it is in and cannot complain about significant defects after the deal is closed between the buyer and seller. (The one caveat is if the seller willfully and intentionally withholds material information about defects or problems of a significant nature associated with the real estate.) As a result, it is imperative that a buyer makes certain that the property is closely examined for flaws and defects before a contract for sale is finalized and certainly before the closing date on the transaction.

Once a particular piece of property has been identified for purchase, a contract is then drafted. In the United States, real estate cannot be sold in the absence of a written contract. Often, when residential real estate is sold, a standard form of contract is utilized to memorialize and effect the sale. However, if a person is making the purchase of investment or commercial real estate, more often than not a specific and individualized contract is created for the transaction.

When the contract is signed by the parties, a closing date is established. In the U.S., the closing date is the date on which all of the duties and obligations under the contract need to be satisfied -- including the obligation of the seller to make certain that the title to the real estate is "clean" and including the obligation of the buyer to make certain that his or her financing is in order.

Generally, a closing date is set approximately 30 days from the signing of the contract for sale. However, there is no hard and fast rule pertaining to when the closing is to be held. The closing date is established between the parties to the real estate sales contract.

One of the items that a buyer will want to make certain he or she obtains after the contract is signed and before the closing date is title insurance. Title insurance will protect the buyer of real estate should a situation arise in which the title to the underlying real estate ends up being clouded. A clouded title is one in which another person or entity ends up having an interest in real estate that may not have been found or properly disclosed during the time period between the signing of the contact and the closing of the sale itself. For example, a prior lender may have a lien on the property that for some reason was not discovered. While such an encumbrance on the property's title should have been discovered, there are countless examples in which mistakes occur and liens and other interests in a particular piece of real estate are not discovered. Again, title insurance protects a buyer of real estate from any expenses or loss that he or she might experience as a result of a defect in or cloud on the title to real property.

In most jurisdictions in America (but not all) local units of government assess property taxes on real estate. If a person is buying property in America, he or she needs to understand that they are likely to be responsible for paying a pro rata share of taxes that will be due and owing for the portion of the year of the purchase during which the buyer actually assumes ownership of the real estate. Often, the taxes will be due to be paid at the time of closing to avoid any problems between the buyer and seller in the future.

Additionally, insurance on the real estate needs to be in place to benefit the buyer on the closing date. A purchaser of developed real estate will not want to assume possession of the property without making absolutely certain that proper insurance is in place.

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Sources
Property Abroad Buyer's Guide to the United States
Articles from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution


• Three Springs Realty, LLC., Dan Easton •
• 706-745-3734, Fax 706-835-2188, Cell 706-835-5149, 866-745-0333 •
• Int'l 01-1-706-754-3734 •