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Moving to and from another country can seem almost impossible with a daunting list of requirements and your personal to-do list. In the United States, foreign buyers make up a considerable percentage of buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors, totaling more than $54 billion in sales between 2020 and 2021. Are you one of those foreign buyers looking to make a big move and relocate to the United States, particularly making a move to California? Whether you are a foreign investor, relocating for work, school, or immigrating, purchasing real estate in the United States will differ from buying a property in your home country. We have compiled a guide to help you get started on your move and a list of who you will need to connect with.

How do Real Estate Purchases Work in the United States?
To purchase a property in the United States, we need to establish the basics. The following gives an example of how real estate transactions are carried out in California.

Brokerage Fees and Commissions
In most countries, maybe even the one you are coming from, it is customary to pay a fee to have a real estate agent assist you in your home search and the contract process. In The United States, the commission to the agent(s) is always paid by the seller of the property and then divided between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. This makes it so that buyers do not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for real estate agents to assist them in a home purchase. Taking this into consideration, it is highly recommended that you work with an experienced and trusted broker or agent who will help you secure the home of your dream and keep your best interests in mind and not the interests of the seller.

Brokerage/Agent Education
Real estate agents and brokers must have a license and meet education requirements to operate their businesses. This is closely regulated by industry checks and balances and the individual state governments.

Multiple Listings Service or MLS
In California and much of the United States, the MLS system is used by agents and prospective buyers to access information provided to sites such as, Zillow, and Trulia. As noted above, agents share data about homes and other properties on this site, translating to other consumer-friendly websites.

Who Do You Need to Connect With and Why?


To purchase a home abroad, you will need a skilled agent to work closely with as you might not always be in town or able to see a home when it is available to be shown. You will need to trust your real estate agent to make the right calls for you and your family as you make this move. If you are not fluent in English or prefer to speak in your native tongue, many agents in the local area can converse with you in a variety of languages – this is something you should look for when deciding on which agent to work with. Also, keep in mind their experience and expertise.

A lender or Financial Institution
To purchase a property within the United States, you will need to connect with a lender or financial institution to assist you with the loan or processing your cash payment to the home. Finding a trusted and well-known local Californian bank or lender will be your best option moving forward with a purchase in the state.

Calculating the Cost – Money Breakdown

A down payment on a property is a large sum of money, typically from 3%-20%, that a buyer pays upfront in a real estate transaction. The amount is paid to the financial institution you are securing your loan from. If you plan to buy your property in cash, this does not apply to you.

Earnest Deposit(s)
An earnest deposit or good faith deposit is an amount of money you put down to demonstrate your intent to purchase the home you are putting an offer on. This deposit is typically held by the real estate agent or title company and is delivered with your contract signing.

Closing Costs
Closing costs are made up of the fees associated with buying your home and paid at closing. These charges are made up of fees relating to the mortgage and including the appraisal, title work, paperwork, attorney fees, and the expense of underwriting your loan. A personal check can pay these closing costs at the closing table and are separate from your down payment or earnest deposit.

What do You Need to Buy a Property in the United States as a Non-Citizen?
● social security number or ITIN ( Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
● valid foreign passport, a U.S. visa, or a valid driver’s license
● bank statements and, if applicable, financial records from your overseas bank
● proof of reserves from your bank
● pay stubs from your employer
● credit score
● tax returns from prior years

Should You Purchase the Property in Your Name?
Foreign investors and owners can purchase a home or other property directly in your name or through a business entity, like a domestic corporation or limited partnership. You should speak with your agent or real estate attorney about this question to find the best solution for you and your needs.

Can You Pay Cash for Your Property?
Yes, all-cash purchases of property are allowed in the United States, although the government does mandate that all cash transactions over $10,000 be reported. If purchasing a home in cash is not feasible for you, you may obtain a mortgage or loan for your home.

What Does Finalizing the Deal and Closing Look Like?
After the seller accepts your offer, you will be able to conduct inspections on the property to ensure that the structure is in sound condition and check for any damages unseen to the naked eye. After all inspections are conducted, you will have the option to move forward or back out of the deal by a date set in your contract. If you choose to move forward, the following steps include an appraisal and title work. Once that is completed, you will receive a closing date and time where the final loan documents, tax documents, and deed will be signed. You do not need to attend this closing in person if prior arrangements have been made, such as appointing a power of attorney or if you sign the documents by overnight courier services.

Making a move to California
If you wish to find your dream home or discuss the ins and outs of American real estate please get in touch with me. I look forward to working with you.