How to buy property in the United States: 4 tips for Australian home shoppers

MAR 31, 2017

The property experts at Zillow, the leading real estate marketplace in the United States, share their tips for Australian home shoppers looking north.

Maybe you fell in love with a new city while on holiday in the US. Maybe you’re itching for a new experience. Or maybe, after observing the American dream from afar, you’ve decided to pursue it for yourself.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to move to the land of opportunity. But the prospect of navigating a foreign tax system, calculating extra administrative costs or learning about a completely different housing market can feel overwhelming.

For Australians looking to buy a home abroad, here are tips to keep in mind.

1. Talk to a pro


Make sure you talk to a professional before signing on the dotted line.Photo: Laurent Delhourme
Talking to an expert, such as a mortgage lender or real estate professional with experience helping international buyers, can help you figure out what you need to do and what you can expect from the process. It’s comforting to have a seasoned professional on your side and can help alleviate some fear of the unknown.
Use search tools, like Zillow’s Agent Finder, to choose an agent based on sales and listing activity, area of expertise and reputation.
A real estate agent is an important partner when buying a home as they can provide helpful information about homes and neighbourhoods and have an extensive knowledge of the home buying process. In the US, the sales commission is paid by the seller, so buyers do not pay to have an agent work on their behalf.

2. Beware of scams Some investor specialists try to take advantage of foreign investors who know little about the market. Be aware of the red flags for scams and internet fraud, and remember the key rule: it if sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Understand the requirements In the vast majority of cases, there are no US laws that prohibit foreign nationals buying properties and owning land in the US. However, there are additional disclosure requirements for foreign buyers using cash in some cities. It’s best to work with a professional to navigate your specific needs when it comes to buying your new home.
Australian citizens who buy property in the US will need to complete and file a tax return annually in both Australia and the US. Generally, US property held by a foreign investor will be subject to additional requirements as stipulated by the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act. As an Australian resident, you are taxed on your worldwide income, including income from offshore bank accounts, any rental income from the US property and capital gains on overseas assets.

Related: Related: What the Sydney median gets you in 10 US cities

You don’t need to be a US citizen or have a green card to buy a home in the US, but you do need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN is a tax-processing number assigned to foreign nationals, who are required to have a US taxpayer identification number, but do not have one and are ineligible for a Social Security number.
An ITIN can be issued by the Internal Revenue Service or by an IRS-approved certified professional accountant.

4. Get financed

Using financing (like a mortgage) to buy a home is technically optional, but necessary for many buyers. US banks impose stricter lending criteria for foreign investors, which can make it difficult to obtain financing. Most banks require a hefty deposit, normally about a third of the home price.

Online tools are a good way to gauge what you can afford. However, Australian buyers will also want to consider issues such as currency exchange rates, international wire transfer fees, multinational taxation and accounting issues, and import-export restrictions regarding currency and household goods.

Success! Now what?

After finding a home, negotiating an offer and agreeing to a price with the seller, the home will go into escrow. Escrow is the period of time it takes to complete the remaining steps in the home buying process, including getting a home inspection and having the home appraised. At the home closing, you will sign all the paperwork required to complete the purchase. Welcome home!

Security of Real Estate Investments

Star Dynamic capitalises on the security of real estate investments by ensuring that all properties are handpicked in great neighbourhoods, renovated to high rental demand standards, and occupied by pre-screened, dependable tenants. These homes are selected for your individual investment and budget needs.

Five Best Cities To Invest In Rental Properties

When looking for rental properties, there are certain areas which offer a higher return on investment than others. Rental properties in areas that show prominent and steady job growth, population growth, and affordable cost of living are generally going to turn a bigger profit than a property in a high poverty area with little to no job growth.

Luckily, the United States seems to be chock-full of cities that match this description.

So where are these cities considered to be a best-buy? The top five cities to invest in stretch across the United States in various states showing that you don’t have to be on one particular cost to create a profitable rental portfolio.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit is known as the Motor City and its industry level matches its name, with companies like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler all claiming Detroit as home. There’s no end to job growth in the city either, as many other industries have begun to flock to the Metro Area, as well.

In addition to a solid job growth, Detroit has begun ranking as one of the hottest cities to invest in due to its incredible cost of living. Currently, Detroit holds the title of most affordable city for quality of life in the US, as well.

While these are great draws for residents transplanting into the area, there are numerous figures that seem to be beckoning out of state and out of country investors to the Motor City. The current median price for a single family home in the Detroit Metro Area is running at an impressive $65,000, while the average rental rate is around $900 a month. With low upfront costs and high rental demand, Detroit has quickly gained status in the investment industry.

Orlando, Florida

When it comes to the Sunshine State, Orlando is a hot market to be in. While rental properties are in high demand in the Central Florida area, single family homes are still relatively affordable. Currently, you can pick up a fully renovated single-family home for under $120,000.

Over the last year, home values have increased and rental rates have skyrocketed an impressive 8%. In addition to great rental rates, property taxes and insurances are low, creating an even better cash flow for property owners.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

As local job growth is one of the top factors of a successful rental property, Pittsburgh is definitely in the green. The city is home to a multitude of large corporations from every industry, including healthcare, education, technology, and finance.

The city has recently been ranked as one of the top 10 housing markets in the US for redevelopment and growth. Houses are averaging a median sales price of $150,000 with rental rates having increased by 12.6% over the last year.

Montgomery, Alabama

Recently nominated as one of the Best Historic Cities in the nation. The average monthly rental rate is below the national average, with the average homeowner and renter paying less than 30% of their income toward their housing expenses—making Montgomery a top ranker for quality of life.

The current median sales price for a home in Montgomery comes in at approximately $125,000 while the average rental rate falls around $900 a month. The low property taxes combined with the moderate rental prices equal high return on investment rates for property owners.

Houston, Texas

Always fascinated with transportation, the city of Houston is home to NASA’s Mission Control as well as many oil-related businesses. The city has seen a population growth of over 15% from 2000 until 2017.

Rental demand continues to rise as job growth expands, which is good news for property owners. While property values are higher than some other best-buy cities, with the average cost coming in at $392,674, the rental rates even out the cost of purchase, averaging at $1,600.

Finding rental properties in the US is an easy feat; however, finding the right rental property can be a little more daunting. While trying to locate a cash-flow producing property may feel tricky at first, if you stick to this list of viable cities for rental properties, you’re sure to start out on the right foot.

How Good is US Real Estate

How Good is US Property?

Planning to invest in a US property? Here are some things you need to know to ensure you get the most out of your planned investment in a US property:

A US investment property is very accessible

US property has become an appealing market recently due to its affordability. The low entry cost is the main reason; most specifically to several distressed markets/areas within the US.

It has a positive cash flow

US properties are positive cash flow, meaning that the rental returns are high and stable. As an example, you can have a US property rented for around $350 weekly, which is about the same in countries such as in Australia. However, a US property can have at least 10% rental return rate as it has much lower purchase price.

Capital growth potential

Though it needs some research and a considerable amount of legwork to understand the US market as well as certain areas that need to be focused on, such properties have a high potential for long term capital growth. This, in turn, can give you maximised rental return and can help build your equity in the long run.

Provides opportunity for diversity of investments

By investing in an offshore property like in the US would be a wiser strategy considering the potential of the properties in this country. By wisely choosing a strategic location within the US, one can have the benefit of paying lesser taxes as their holdings are spread across the different states.

Why Choose Real Estate Property in USA

Ownership of US real estate is the centrepiece of whаt іѕ known as the American Drеаm. There is no other place on the planet where you саn fіnd the best places to own property and ѕtаrt a home than in the US. If you have ѕаvеd uр еnоugh money waiting for the next big thing to come аlоng, whу nоt cash in on a tried and true investment venture thаt іѕ US real estate.

Capital Appreciation

When you purchase American real еѕtаtе уоu wіll actually own something that has a fixed limited quantity. Thе amount of available land in the US or anywhere еlѕе for thаt matter is limited and only so many can be trаdеd аnd ѕоld. Once the population of a certain area оr region begins to increase, the value of the lаnd аrеа аlѕо begins to appreciate, which translates into tremendous рrоfіt potential for anyone who happens to be thе owner оf thаt land. A perfect example of this was the California gоld ruѕh оf thе 1850s. Land in California at the time wаѕ so cheap that the government was рrасtісаllу gіvіng it away to entice people to populate and settle. Whеn thе gоld rush exploded in the state, thousands of eager individuals frоm all over the country and even as far as Europe саmе tо Cаlіfоrnіа to try and find their luck. This resulted in the price land price іn сеrtаіn areas to skyrocket.

US Real Eѕtаtе – Tаngіblе Asset

Another benefit of оwnіng US rеаl estate property is the fact that you would have in уоur hand something that you can hold and manipulate. If уоu own a piece of land, you can build a building оr a hоuѕе оn top of it. You can be a landlord and rent it out so thаt you wоuld hаvе a monthly stable means of passive income. The ѕаmе could not be said to other іnvеѕtmеntѕ lіkе stocks because unlike land that persists еvеn іn the worst economic соndіtіоnѕ; ѕtосkѕ can lose their value and become worthless juѕt bу thе mеrе suggestion of impropriety or ѕсаndаl. Owning US real estate is assurance that уоu wіll have something of vаluе that would not be totally worthless.

Numerous Tax Bеnеfіtѕ and Opportunities

Owning US real estate рrореrtіеѕ соmеѕ with amazing perks like tax deductions if уоu play your cards right unlike Australia real estate properties. One way to get this is tо apply еnvіrоnmеntаllу friendly amenities to the property you оwn. If you own property that is rented, you саn dерrесіаtе it over the duration of its usefulness аnd even dеduсt any operational costs that were incurred i n оrdеr to maintain it in optimum working condition.
If you want уоu саn also utilise what is called a 1031 еxсhаngе. Thіѕ is a method wherein you gain the opportunity of not having to рау саріtаl gains taxes on a piece of property that you own. Utilising this mеthоd уоu would be able to sell a piece of real estate and then іnѕtаntlу uѕе the money earned to purchase another ріесе оf рrореrtу without incurring capital gains taxes. Dоіng this allows you to be able to trade bigger ріесеѕ of property efficiently.


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Security of Real Estate Investments

Star Dynamic capitalises on the security of real estate investments by ensuring that all properties are handpicked in great neighbourhoods, renovated to high rental demand standards, and occupied by pre-screened, dependable tenants. These homes are selected for your individual investment and budget needs.