Can Foreigners Qualify for Home Loans to Buy a Property in the U.S.?

By: ROS Team November 16, 2021

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The United States is a country where people from across the globe aspire to settle. The most common question many have is whether they can buy property in the USA. This can be a tricky question, at least on the surface. Getting approved for a property loan as a foreigner will likely be the most challenging part of the homebuying process. If you are not a U.S. citizen but are prepared to purchase property in the U.S., here is some essential information to know.

Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Buy a House in the USA?

If you are looking for a short answer, it’s “yes.” Foreigners can purchase property since there is no citizenship requirement for real estate sales. The process will be easier if you can afford to purchase a property in cash. If not, you can qualify for a loan if you meet the requirements. However, non-U.S. citizens will face a more challenging tax situation than U.S. citizens.

It’s a good idea to get a basic understanding of the tax rules before you buy property in America. We’ve included a breakdown of rules for foreigners buying property in the USA, included what you should anticipate paying taxes on when selling one or renting out a property in the U.S.

Rules for Non-U.S. Citizen Buying Property in the U.S.

  • The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA) was enacted to levy a tax on foreigners when they rent out or sell U.S. real property. IRS Publication 515 documents the rules for nonresident aliens (NRA). Any foreigner who wishes to buy property in the U.S. should read and under IRS Publication 515.
  • Generally, if the property located in the U.S. is owned by a nonresident who is not effectively connected with a business entity, the U.S. trade is taxed at a 30% rate.
  • Suppose a foreigner buys or owns an interest in property located in the U.S. to generate some passive income. He or she can deduct expenses related to the real property income, and the net income will be taxed.
  • When a foreigner sells a house in the U.S., any profit is taxed as if a native had sold the property. If the property is held for more than one year, it will qualify for lower long-term capital gains treatment.
  • Rules for foreigners buying property in the U.S. include withholding tax. They will be subject to a 15% non-resident withholding tax on the gross sale and completion of a real estate transaction. This is required unless there is a specific exemption at that period. If that is the case, a petition for exemption is supposed to be filed with the IRS before selling the property. The seller will get a certificate of exemption.

 

Note: Any personal property sold that’s valued under $1 million is subject to a lower rate of 10%.

  • Taxes may vary from state to state; depending on the state, there may be state liability tax or withholding tax.
  • Foreigners are supposed to file a 1040NR tax return to report any income earned from real estate.

 

Note: Foreigners must get a U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to file a tax return.

Selling a U.S.-Based Home as a Non-U.S. Citizen

Once you own a property, you might also have to consider selling it one day. Therefore, it’s good to be aware of the rules and requirements should you decide to sell your property in the future.

According to IRS guidelines, there are restrictions on buyers from non-U.S. citizens withholding 15% of the gross sale price to make sure that they don’t escape the tax net. Buyers will be subject to additional taxes if they do not withhold this amount. If you are interested in getting more information, you should check out the IRS’s FIRPTA publication.

According to real estate experts, consult with an agent who won’t rush you into making a wrong decision or push you beyond what you’re comfortable offering for a property.  Working with a trustworthy real estate agent is also key if you are worried about purchasing property as a foreigner.

Can You Get a Home Loan as a Non-U.S Citizen?

The process of buying a home as a foreigner can be quite simple if you can buy with cash or have the resources to pay the total sales amount at once. If you are not in a financial position to purchase a house with cash, you will have to finance the property by way of a home loan. This is where things can get complex.

Whether or not you’ll qualify for a home loan as a foreigner will depend on your residency status. If you have no intention of moving to the U.S. permanently and buying a home, you can only seek a foreign national loan. It has higher interest rates, a higher down payment, and you will need to have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (INTN) to apply for the loan.

You can also qualify for a mortgage as a non-permanent resident with a valid work visa, a permanent resident with a green card, or as a refugee who’s been granted asylum. Lenders will want to verify the borrower’s legal residency before granting the loan. So non-permanent U.S. residents may have a more challenging time getting a loan.

The central question that often confuses foreigners is whether or not they can buy a home with an FHA loan. Well, you can certainly apply for an FHA loan as long as you provide proof of your permanent residency. However, there is a restriction woven into the FHA loan framework that the home you want to buy must be your permanent residence. You would not qualify for an FHA loan. If you are seeking a loan for a second home or a vacation residence.

In addition,  lenders look at a borrower’s U.S. credit history to determine their eligibility for a home loan. As a foreigner, your credit report may not have enough information for lenders to establish your creditworthiness. In some cases, foreigners may not have a U.S. credit report at all.  This would create problems for foreigners and would also make it difficult for lenders to analyze their risk.

Due to these issues, many lenders simply choose to not lend money to foreigners. Therefore, it may take longer to get loan approval. Or you might have to pay a higher interest rate if approved for a loan.

Final Thoughts

It’s not uncommon for foreigners to buy vacation homes in the U.S. There are a lot of financially well-off foreign investors who buy investment properties. Such as shopping malls, single-family homes, and multi-unit apartments. So whether you are an immigrant looking for a single family home or an investor interested in a vacation property. You are more than welcome in the United States.