Your at a glance guide to the buying process in the USA
Step one: Find the property
If you’re looking to buy a property for a holiday home, your first port of call will be to look online to research popular holiday resorts in the US, the types of properties that work well, and the typical returns and prices. You can then research which properties are available in these areas and get an idea for prices and what you get for your money. There are a number of sites where you can find this information and a wide range of properties available for purchase.
If you are planning to migrate to the USA, you need to find an area and property that will suit your new lifestyle in the US – whether that’s a new job, raising a family, or enjoying retirement. Again, online research is valuable in narrowing down potential areas and properties and helping you pull together your must-haves and nice-to-haves before travelling to America to view any properties.
You should also take the time to prepare your budget at this point – find out about the different costs you will need to include in your budget in Money matters.
Research real estate agents and find agents that have the right kind of properties for sale to suit your needs. Check out the real estate agent, too, and do your homework. Real estate works a bit differently in the USA and many are individuals rather than larger agencies. Read our tips for finding the right agent.
Step two: Visit the property
Plan several visits: to view a selection of US properties in the areas you are considering, then a second trip to view your shortlist. Explore the local area, speak to other homeowners and business owners in the area, and find out what it’s really like. You can even get copies of any local newspapers and free neighborhood publications to get a more in-depth, insiders view of the area.
If buying a holiday home or investing to let a property, find out the area’s popularity and rentability – is it year-round, or seasonal? If you’re planning a permanent move, you need to ensure that the local area suits your needs. Are there the right amenities close by, and good transport links, for example? Is the distance commutable to your new place of work, if you are moving to the US to live and work?
Step three: Get your professional advisors and finances in place
Okay, so you’ve found the property for you. It’s time to make an offer! However, before you do, it’s essential to check that all your finances are in place.
- Do you need a mortgage or have you go the cash ready to buy?
- Can you definitely get the mortgage you need, if a mortgage is required?
- Do you have enough money set aside for extra hidden costs such as legal fees and agency commission? If you are making a purchase with cash make sure you have written proof of funds before viewing any homes.
- Have you looked into the currency exchange aspects of your property purchase? Any deposit, final property payment and ongoing mortgage payments, if appropriate, are all subject to fluctuating currency exchange rates. Find out how to get the most form these international payments and protect any international transactions by getting in touch with a Currency Consultant.
Step four: Make an offer
It is time to make an offer on your choses US property. Property buyers in the United States will generally be dealing with a realtor who represents the seller, so you may wish to consider engaging the services of a qualified broker or realtor for yourself. Your agent will negotiate on your behalf and ensure the contract is explained fully and written as per the legal requirements. If you are looking to purchase a new property, your agent will liaise with the sales staff to negotiate the price and terms and answer any questions or queries you may have.
Step five: Checks and surveys
Whenever buying a property it always makes sense to have a survey and building inspection, which includes a pest inspection carried out first. If your inspection finds a previously unspecified problem with your home then you can pull out without incurring any financial damages. Your realtor/legal representative should help you find a regulated specialist to carry out the inspection for you, but you can choose to hire your own company should you wish.
Step six: Deposit
After an agreement is reached, and building inspections have been completed, both buyer and seller sign a contract, which stipulates a closing date. At this point, the buyer will need to put down a deposit, usually 10 percent. Pull out now, and the deposit is lost.
Step seven: Completion date
Just prior to closing, you will need to arrange title and real estate insurance and be aware of any property taxes for which you are liable. The closing will be held at a title company or can also be done via email if you will not be present. If your property is going to be used as an income producing property, then ensure you adhere to any tax liabilities. Seek the advice of a tax professional experienced with the US property market. At the closing the funds will be distributed to the necessary parties and you will receive the keys to your new home. The property purchasing process in the US takes, on average, between 30 to 60 days from making an offer to receiving the keys.
Estate Agents and viewing properties
When researching potential agents, look at some of the overseas property portals to compare regions and agents. This will give you a feel for what’s available and the different services they can offer.
Halo Handy Hint
Local estate agents, or realtors, as they’re more commonly known in the US, should be able to help you with practical matters in the area, too, such as opening a bank account, how to connect to utilities, and finding local amenities. Test their knowledge with your questions!