Buying a property abroad can seem a bit overwhelming; however many of our clients tell us that it is very similar in many ways to buying property in the UK except in a few specific ways. The biggest difference being the short period of time to complete a sale in the US. Our “Buyers Guide” below comes from over 18 years of assisting UK buyers of Florida property. Feel free to contact us should you need further assistance.
We require that all of our clients speak with a qualified tax professional prior to purchasing a property, whether in person or a scheduled phone interview. One of our professional tax partners that specialize in assisting international buyers would be happy to reach out to you. A few key points:
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Will you be buying “off plan” or an “inventory home”?
Once you have selected the property you want to purchase, the builder/developer will have specific timeframes for contract signing and deposits. Most will accept at minimum $2,500 to prepare the contract and remove the property temporarily from the market. However, a larger deposit of at least 10% will be required usually within 10-30 days.
Probably the biggest difference in buying property in the States as opposed to the UK is that in the States a title company is mostly used to transfer property rights instead of solicitors. Title companies prepare completion documents based on the purchase agreement between the two parties. The title company will also insure that all funds are delivered when all parties have signed and conditions to the sale have been met. Solicitors are welcome, but they do not take the place of the company as the title company will also provide title insurance.
Once you have completed your required contract deposits you will move to the completion (closing) phase of your purchase.
If you purchased off plan and are using a mortgage the build time will be about 4-6 months. During this time you will need to update financial documents with your lender. If you purchased an inventory home you may need to complete the purchase within as little as 30 days with cash or 60 days with mortgage.
Once your property is within 30-45 days of completion the lender will order an independent appraisal which will cost you around $500 upfront. At this time you will also have a closing date scheduled.
Within 10 days of closing, as your agent, we will perform a walk through of the property to make sure any last minute items are addressed.
Mortgage Purchases – once the closing date is scheduled you may need to book your flights for the signing of closing documents (some lenders will allow a notary signing at the US Embassy or Consulate). You will also get an estimate of the final amount needed to complete the purchase; this will include all closing costs plus the purchase price minus any deposits received on your behalf and any concessions or incentives due to you. This “cash to close” will need to be wired to the closing agent before you leave to Florida. Any overages from the estimate will be refunded back to you after all documents are signed. Closing costs on mortgage transactions average 5-6% of the sales price.
Cash purchases – closing or transfer of ownership documents can be emailed or faxed to you for signatures and originals can be express mailed or emailed back; a notary may be needed. Closing costs on cash transactions average 2% of the sales price.
Closing costs include Home Owners Association dues, transfer taxes and closing fees. If a mortgage is involved then mortgage fees and property insurance will apply.
Some properties may require using an onsite management or preferred management company. These resort style properties typically handle upkeep and rental of all properties in the development. However most properties need independent management companies for upkeep and rental. Either way, management companies will take a percentage of the rental income for their efforts. This can range anywhere from 10-30%, depending on the extent of their services. They may also charge a monthly management fee of $120-150 even if the property is not in the rental program.
The wow factor! Renters buy with their eyes. If your intent is to rent the property as a holiday home, furnishings can be just as important as location and amenities!
Because the internet has become such an important part of advertising rental property, competition has become very intense. When purchasing furniture it is very important to pay attention to it’s visual appeal to potential renters. Your management company will provide guidelines to follow regarding furnishing a property for successful rental outcomes.
Furnishing packages can range from $20,000-60,000 or more depending on the number of bedrooms and quality. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 10% of the property’s purchase price spent on furnishings will put your property at a level to achieve maximum rental potential.
As an owner of Florida property, you will be responsible for annual property taxes which will be billed to you in November for the current year. In most cases these property taxes are 2% or less of the property’s assessed value. The local county property appraiser will assess every property based off recent comparable sales of similar properties. If you are renting the property as a short term rental you will also be responsible for sales taxes, your property management company can track and assist you with these details. You will also need to carry the appropriate amount of property insurance. Property insurance can cost around $1,200 per year for a 5 bed detached pool villa.
Most communities have a home owners association. An HOA can be responsible for keeping the community to a specific standard as set forth by the property owners. In holiday property communities they can do much more. For example, if the community has a pool, clubhouse or recreation center, the HOA is responsible for maintaining these amenities and collecting dues from property owners. Typically more amenities means a higher HOA which usually means more rental occupancy and income.
At some point in the future you may consider selling your property and it is important to work with an agent that understands your potential buyers and what effect selling it will have on you. As a foreign owner of property in the United States you will be responsible for paying income tax on any income earned from the sale of a property. In order to insure it’s payment the IRS requires the closing agent to withhold up to 15% of the sale amount until the taxed owed is determined.
Whether this is your first time buying property abroad or you are an experienced investor, rest assured with over 17 years of experience in the Central Florida holiday property market we can comfortably guide you from your selection of property through your purchase and eventual sale, all the while assisting you with every step in between to insure a smooth transaction.