The credit situation i n the United States and the real estate market are both characterized by unusually stressful circumstances. Foreign and domestic purchasers of U.S. real estate will find it increasingly difficult to obtain mortgage loans. For purchasers who are able to pay cash and who seek medium and long term placements, the real estate market in Florida offers very attractive investment opportunities. For anyone who needs third party financing, the landscape is at present somewhat bleak.
This being said, financing opportunities still exist. In this article, we will discuss those opportunities. While banks are undergoing a definite ''credit crunch", banks are still lending to appropriate potential buyers. The United States banking system is exceedingly complex, and at present becoming daily more so. The basic structure of the banking industry remains unchanged, however, and we will first point out the types of financial institutions that may offer financing to foreign borrowers. We then analyze the terms and conditions of a typical mortgage contract and the promissory note the mortgage secures, as well as other documents typically used in connection with the mortgage loan. Finally, we underscore the items of which the foreign borrower-buyer must be aware at and after the closing of the purchase.
NEED TO CONSULT PROFESSIONAL ADVISERS
Our professional experience has confirmed that foreign buyers must consult two professionals when seeking to purchase real property in the United States: a qualified real estate broker and an attorney experienced in real estate transactions. In Europe and Latin America, the acquisition of real property involves different types of documents and takes place in a framework that is often so different that foreigners rely on home country knowledge when buying property in the U.S. at their peril. Obviously, the value of realty depends on many factors that a person who is unfamiliar with a region is not able to weigh properly when making investment decisions. For this reason, the input of a real estate broker experienced in the region and in the type of property to be purchased is essential. In addition, properly following local law and custom when purchasing realty is clearly the key to a successful transaction and requires the input of an attorney.
Initially, foreign purchasers should consult real estate professionals with respect to the present state of the market: areas of expansion and growth; the relationship between price and quality is in the various neighborhoods; whether present economic conditions make the market more favorable to buyers or to sellers; and other practical information such as availability of schools, distance from commercial areas and possible effects of catastrophic events such as hurricanes. Once one or more properties that correspond to the purchaser's requirements have been found, the broker will assist the potential purchaser in deciding how best to formulate an offer, and in particular, what strategy to adopt as regards price (a buyer generally offers less - even 20 to 30% less under present circumstances - than the asking price, and negotiations continue until the parties reach an agreement). When a proposal regarding price has been decided upon, the purchaser makes an offer to the seller by delivering a draft contract that sets forth the terms of the transaction: price, conditions, closing date, etc.
Because U.S. real property law is quite different from that of other countries, the preparation of the contract should be entrusted to an attorney. Even if the broker uses a printed contract form that the broker has assisted the buyer in filling out, the buyer should consult with an attorney before tendering the contract to the Seller, especially since the contract is not a '"pre-contract" as is used in many countries, but the key document that governs the entire transaction, far more than general law. The assistance of an attorney is essential for many reasons. For example, the U.S. does not have a real property registry in the strict sense of the term, and as a result, determining whether a Seller is in fact the owner of the property being transferred requires expertise that the layman often does not possess. A purchaser of realty in the United States is protected as to title by a system of title insurance that guarantees that a purchaser will in fact be the full owner of the property and provides for the curing of any defects. Real estate attorneys help a purchaser in obtaining and understanding a title insurance policy. Foreign purchasers should be aware also that in the U.S. there are no "Notaries" as there are in the civil law countries of the U.S. and Latin ( America. In the U.S. real property transactions are handled by attorneys, not "Notaries" ( Notaires or Notarios ).
It must be noted in addition that U.S. real estate acquisitions tend to involve more documentation than is the case in foreign countries. When a buyer obtains financing, the documentation at closing is indeed voluminous and includes all the mortgage documents as well as the real estate documents that transfer title to the buyer. The number and complexity of documents are all the more reason to use an attorney. Although it is possible to close a purchase transaction though a title insurance company only, experience shows that it is advisable to hire an attorney whose job is to protect the buyer only.
The U.S. tax system also can make it advisable to purchase U.S. real property in the name of a legal entity, such as a Florida or an offshore (non-U.S.) corporation or limited liability company or both. This is another reason to consult an attorney, as it is practically impossible for a foreign national (or a broker) to assist with establishing a corporate structure for a real estate acquisition.
The cost of professional assistance consists essentially of the broker's commission and legal fees payable to the attorney. The realtors' commission is generally paid by the seller but at times by the Buyer. The rate of the commission and the names of the Brokers (or of the Broker if there is only one) is established in the contract. It is suggested that the potential purchaser discuss the commission question with Realtors from the beginning. As for attorneys, they can be hired in the United States on a fixed fee basis or on an hourly basis. The advantage of hiring an attorney on a fixed fee basis is the avoidance of any surprise when the time comes to pay the bill. Fixed fees for real estate acquisitions run anywhere from 0.5 percent to l percent of the gross purchase price of the property, depending on the circumstances. As a practical matter, attorneys in the U.S. spend much more time in assisting foreign purchasers than would be required to assist U.S. persons, simply because foreign clients are unfamiliar with the system and need lengthy explanations and generally more assistance than local clients.
In summary, the enlightened sel f interest of a foreign participant in a U.S. real estate transaction definitely benefits from the assistance of real estate professionals and attorneys.
TYPES OF FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
In theory, a foreign purchaser of U.S. realty could obtain a loan from foreign banks or finance companies. Under Florida law, a foreign financial institution may lend money for the purchase of Florida realty and take a purchase money mortgage encumbering that realty to guarantee repayment of the loan. Some foreign purchasers mortgage real property they own in their home country and use the proceeds for the purchase of Florida property.
However, foreign banks and finance companies often are not willing to make loans for the acquisition of real property outside their home countries (in this case, in the United States) for reasons of unfamiliarity with the system Ir and the corresponding increase in costs (they must hire an attorney also!), not to mention the tax situation. The reality is that the foreign purchaser generally must consult a local lender. These lenders normally fall into two categories: mortgage, or "finance" companies, and banks.
ROLE OF MORTGAGE BROKERS
Experienced mortgage brokers maintain contacts with finance companies and banks who are willing to lend to foreign buyers. They are often able to save foreign buyers considerable time i n finding a program that corresponds to their needs. A mortgage broker explains the essential terms and conditions of the various loans that are offered and assist the foreign buyers i n completing the documentation that each lender requires. Foreign buyers should always ask all necessary questions when dealing with mortgage brokers (and indeed when dealing with the lenders themselves). When considering certain types of mortgages, in particular those with an adjustable rate feature, they should definitely be sure they understand exactly how the interest rate adjusts.
In Miami, several mortgage and finance companies specialize in financing the acquisition of Florida realty by foreign buyers. The situation is comparable in other states with a large foreign presence. Most real estate attorneys can direct buyers to mortgage companies dealing with foreign borrowers in their area. In addition, some foreign consulates maintain lists of such institutions. Brokers also are a good source of information in this regard. Here, foreign buyers must be aware of the primary rule in American business practices: always get more than one quote for any transaction. This is especially important when shopping for a real estate mortgage loan. The considerable differences in conditions from one lender to the next are often surprising.
At the outset, it must be noted that these companies generally requi re that the Buyer furnish 30 to 40 or even 45% percent of the total price as a down payment. As a general rule, moreover, given the reduced availability of credit in late 2008 and very likely throughout 2009, obtaining financing in the U.S. for foreign buyers will remain difficult for the foreseeable future, and down payments required will be in the neighborhood of 40% or 45%. Note also that most of these specialized companies charge interest rates somewhat higher than local banks lending to U.S. persons. Finally, they ask for extensive information from the Buyer regarding creditworthiness: bank references, financial statements, recommendations, etc.
Foreign buyers planning on financing their purchase m ust be sure that their attorney includes a financing contingency in the purchase contract, that is, a clause granting the buyer a certain time to obtain financing, and providing that if the buyer cannot get financing by a certain date, the buyer can cancel the contract and get the deposit back (often I 0% of the purchase price). Note that the financing contingency section of a contract usually requires that the buyer initiate immediately the loan application process. Also, if the foreign buyer plans to take title in the name of an offshore (non-U.S.) corporation, this intention should be expressed to the potential lender during the first meeting. While most lenders finance acquisitions by foreign corporations, they usually will require a personal guarantee by the principal of the company.
Once a mortgage company is found, the application process is generally straightforward. An application form m ust be filled out and the closing itself prepared. Although straightforward, the application form as indicated is usually quite thorough and calls for personal and professional references, especially from bankers, and personal and professional data. One Miami mortgage company req uires the following from a potential foreign borrower, for example: a letter from the borrower's accountant; two bank references; three credit references (with payment history); corporate documents if the borrower is a corporation; U.S. credit history; copy of the passport with the entry visa; and an appraisal of the real property.
Mortgage companies, like banks, assist the Buyer throughout the acq uisition process, among other reasons because their security depends on the Buyer's obtaining good title. When a mortgage company provides financing, the purchase process itself is almost identical to what it would be in the case of a purchase financed by a bank, and the remarks below apply to all such financed transactions no matter what type of institution finances the purchase.
BANKS AND SAVINGS AND LOAN INSTITUTIONS
Foreign purchasers seeking financi ng sometimes will want to contact U.S. banks, some of which are willing to lend to foreigners acquiring U.S. real estate, although at present the amount financed by banks rarely will be over 60% in Florida. There are many types of banking institutions in the U.S. and the banking regulatory system is complex and undergoing change at present. Because of the volatility now affecting banks and other financial institutions in the U.S., foreign buyers, again, should always consult experienced professionals when seeking financing through relations with U.S financial institutions. The following discussion will help to familiarize foreign buyers with the system.
SAVINGS & LOAN INSTITUTIONS AND COMMERCIAL BANKS
The first division one must point out is the distinction between Savings and Loan Associations and commercial banks. These are the two main types of banks that make real estate loans. Generally, it may prove somewhat more difficult for a foreign purchaser to obtain financing from a Savings and Loan institution ("S&L"), even in cities such as Miami where many such financial institutions have a "foreign" department. The reason for this reluctance on the part of S&L's to make loans to foreigners is often the perceived difficulty in properly verifying the creditworthiness of the potential buyer and in recovering any deficiency in a foreign country if the borrower defaults on the loan. Having said this, many Miami commercial banks and banks in other large cities can and do make real estate loans to foreigners. Here again, it is necessary to consult attorneys and brokers and others knowledgeable in this area to find potential lenders.
TERM AND CONDITIONS FOR FOREIGNER BORROWERS WHO FINANCE THEIR PURCHASE OF US. REAL PROPERTY
Many of the financing institutions mentioned above can and do make real estate loans to foreign buyers. The terms and conditions of these loans are worthy of analysis for the foreign purchaser. We underscore that the substantive aspects of a real estate acquisition by a foreigner, such as the transfer of title by deed and the documentation of the transaction (no lien affidavit, bill of sale for personal property, inspections, purchase of title insurance, etc.), are quite similar to what they would be if the purchaser were payi ng cash. In other words, there is a core of common procedures and documents that one finds in all real estate transactions, whether the purchaser is foreign or domestic and whether the transaction is all cash or with a mortgage loan. What is different in a financed acquisition is the subject of the following discussion.
A purchaser who finances the acquisition of real property m ust consider the following points: Amount financed and the terms of the financing, essentially the following:
- Amount of down payment.
- Interest rates (fixed or adjustable). Promissory Note: terms and conditions. Mortgage: terms and conditions.
- Financing Fees and Costs Title Insurance.
- Post Closing Considerations
PROCUREMENT OF THE FINANCING: GENERAL
Assuming the foreign purchaser locates a lender willing to finance the purchaser's acquisition of U.S. real property, the purchaser will be asked to fill out an application, provide references, and fulfill any other requirements I the lender may have. Some buyers ••pre-qualify" for a mortgage loan before signing a contract to purchase. This practice is to be recommended. Other buyers sign the contract and then begin to look for financing. Obviously, a Buyer who intends to finance the acquisition must be sure that the purchase contract provides a reasonable period of time for the Buyer to find a lender and that it permits the Buyer to recover the Buyer's deposit if after making good faith efforts to obtain a loan, the Buyer ultimately is unsuccessful.
Once the Buyer has com pleted the loan application and the loan is approved, the lender will give the purchaser a good faith estimate of the costs and expenses to be incurred by the Buyer i n connection with the transaction, the remainder of the down payment, and the amount of cash to be provided by the purchaser at closing. The "closing" in question is the second stage of a U .S.-style purchase transaction that begins with the signature of the purchase contract and ends with the closing, a ceremony at which the payment of the purchase price by the Buyer is made in exchange for the delivery by the Seller to the Buyer of the deed, the document that represents the ownership of the property.
DOWN PAYMENT, NTEREST RATES, TERM OF LOAN
During the preliminary examination of the terms and conditions of the loan, the purchaser must verify that the amount financed is correctly stated and that the terms of the financing are those agreed upon with the lender. In particular, the amount of the down payment to be paid by the Buyer must be correctly indicated, and the term of the loan and the interest rates must be as agreed. As regards the down payment generally, banks or other financial institutions lending to foreigners will require that the percentage of the price paid in cash by the Buyer (in the form of a "down payment" that appears in the purchase contract and on the closing statement as a "deposit" or "deposits" if more than one) be in the neighborhood, at present, of 40 or even 45 percent. During the height of the real estate bubble in Florida, lenders would sometimes finance 100% of the purchase price of realty for U.S. buyers, whereas at present U.S. citizens or residents generally must make down payments of 20%.
Interest rates may be fixed or variable (in the so called "adjustable rate mortgages" or ARMs). Foreign purchasers may obtain an idea of prevailing rates in The Wall Street Journal or other financial publications or even on the internet. Here again, the foreign purchaser will be well advised to seek quotes from more than one lender and to keep in mind that loans to foreign purchasers often are made on terms that are less favorable than those governing loans made to U.S. residents.
The potential borrower will find that variable (or adjustable) interest rates are generally lower than fixed rates for the first few years, but that as their name indicates, they then may vary by reference to an agreed-upon figure such as the prime rate. Purchasers who request variable rates often need lower monthly payments in the beginning and believe that when (and it) the rates go up subsequently, they will be in a better financial situation and will have access to more funds than at the time of purchase. Finally, if opting for a variable rate mortgage loan, the foreign purchaser should ask the lender to go through and explain several scenarios including increases and decreases in the prime rate of various magnitudes. Also, if more exotic mechanisms such as balloon mortgage are used, in which the payments are lower for a preliminary period but the entire loan becomes due at the end of that period, usually fairly short, it becomes essential that the purchaser request complete explanations from the lender and from the purchaser's attorney.
Many classic calculations used by foreign buyers in the past when considering the purchase of U.S. realty have unfortunately become obsolete as a result of the bursti ng of the so-called real estate "bubble" in Florida and the increasi ng unavailability of financing for real property purchases. Foreign buyers who are able to pay cash will find very favorable transactions but they too must be aware of the rapidly evolving market conditions if they are to take full advantage of the situation. Consulting a qualified real estate broker is all the more crucial under present circumstances for a successful transaction.
MISCELLANEOUS CLOSING COSTS DUE TO FINANCING BY LENDERS
A mortgage lender will provide the prospecti ve purchaser-borrower a good faith estimate of all costs to be incurred by the purchaser at closing. This estimate generally takes the form of a pro forma closing statement.
I should be carefully reviewed by the purchaser and by purchaser's attorney. Among the expenses, fees and charges that the purchaser can expect to see on the closing statement when bank or mortgage company financing is involved are the following:
"Points": Lenders often charge a certain percentage ( I percent, 1 .5 percent) of the loan amount as a ..loan ( origination fee", i.e., the cost of the loan. The actual amount of this fee is subject to negotiation and its reasonableness should be considered in relation to the interest rate being charged. The term ''points" also refers to discount points that lenders use to bring the yield on their loan as close as possible to prevailing market conditions. For the borrower, this is simply another charge to be paid.
Mortgage lenders require an appraisal of the property performed by a qualified professional. The cost of the appraisal, several hundred dollars generally, is often charged to the borrower, although this is subject to negotiation.
ESCROW PAYMENTS FOR TAXES
AND CASUALTY INSURANCE PREMIUMS
Mortgagees (lenders) do not want to run the risk that the borrower, as new owner of the property, will not pay the property taxes or casualty insurance premiums when due. Mortgagees (lenders) thus require that the buyer pay part of those charges in advance, into escrow, for use at the proper time to pay these taxes and premiums.
INSPECTIONS (TERMITE) AND INSURANCE
A mortgage lender often requires that the purchaser have the property inspected, in particular for termites, at least in Florida, and also will require that the Buyer insure the property. Costs involved for these items are generally charged to the borrower. Of course, a Buyer paying cash also will want to keep the property fully insured.
Lender's Attorney's Fees: It is quite common for the borrower to have to pay the attorneys' fees incurred by the mortgage lender. As a general rule, mortgage lenders use attorneys who are highly specialized in real estate closings. Consequently, these attorneys' fees are generally reasonable. Nevertheless, they represent another item that must be considered by the Buyer.
Mortgagee's Title Insurance: The borrower-purchaser generally must pay the premium for the mortgagee's title insurance. As described above, title insurance provides greater certainty to the owner and other parties such as the mortgage lender having an interest in the property that their interests are as they should be, and that if problems arise, these parties, owner and mortgagee, will not suffer economic harm. The State of Florida has published minimum premium rates for title insurance. The agent of a title insurance company, often the attorney for the lender, may charge more than the minimum rate, although some charge the strict minimum. Such agent collects part of the premium as a commission. Here again, the borrower-purchaser should verify carefully the pro forma closing statement to determine what the actual premium will be.
OWNER'S TITLE INSURANCE
Because the risk is practically the same as in the case of a mortgagee insurance policy, the title insurance company usually will issue an owner's title insurance policy simultaneously with the mortgagee's policy at a much lower premium, also l isted on the pro forma closing statement. This policy, also paid for by the Buyer, protects the Buyer's title as owner of the property and obviously is very important for the peace of mind of the purchaser of U.S. real property.
INTANGIBLES TAX ON THE MORTGAGE
The State of Florida levies a tax on intangibles, that is, on ''intangible" evidence of indebtedness such as a mortgage. The rate is 2 mills per dollar (0.002 percent) of the principal indebtedness. This tax is normally paid by the borrower-purchaser.
The bank or mortgage company will be on the Buyer's side as regards title, since the validity of the Bank's security, its mortgage, depends on the mortgagor (Buyer) being truly the owner of the mortgaged property. As a result, the bank's attorneys or the attorneys or closing agent for the mortgage company will carefully scrutinize all the documents to make sure there are no flaws or errors.
LEGAL DOCUMENTATION FOR FINANCING: NOTE AND MORTGAGE
NOTE AND MORTGAGE: GENERAL
The principal instruments of the financing transaction are the mortgage and the promissory note, or '"note." The Promissory Note evidences the debt, that is, the promise by the borrower to repay the loan. The mortgage secures the Note: if the borrower defaults, that is, fails to make the promised payment (or fails to comply in some other way with the req uirements and conditions contained in the mortgage), the lender, or mortgagee, may foreclose its mortgage, take possession of the property and sell it. From the Proceeds of the sale, the lender recovers (hopefully) the amount of the Loan. Any excess goes to other creditors and the borrower. Any deficiency still must be paid by the borrower if the loan is a recourse loan as most mortgage loans are.
ASPECTS OF THE MORTGAGE AND NOTE TO VERIFY
Because the Note and Mortgage govern the entire financing transaction, the borrower must be extremely careful when reviewing these instruments. Generally, the borrower's attorney will review the documents and negotiate any necessary modifications with the lender's attorney. As an educated buyer is better able to discuss the transaction with the other parties, we set forth below a few of the main points to verify in connection with each of these documents.
The Promissory Note embodies a promise by the borrower to repay a specific amount of money over a speci fic period of time at a given interest rate. Promissory Notes are negotiable instruments. Unlike promissory notes in many foreign countries, notes in the U nited States may call for staggered repayments over very long periods ( 15 or 30 years being quite common) in one instrument. When reviewi ng the terms of the promissory note, the following items should be carefully checked:
- Principal Amount: This must be the amount of the mortgage loan.
- Interest Rate: All the details regarding the interest rate m ust be clear, fixed or variable; if variable, how it is calculated; and how and where the interest is to be paid.
- Payment Schedule: The Note should set forth a schedule of payments, indicating what each payment consists of (usually princi pal and interest). I f the loan calls for a balloon payment, this fact must be indicated conspicuously on the note itself. The place of payment also should be indicated.
- Grace Period: Generally, the borrower wi ll not want to be declared in default if a payment is one or two days late. The Note should provide for a grace period of from 5 to I O days, at least. That is, if the payment is due on the first day of the month, the borrower has until the tenth (10th) day, for example, to pay and can only be declared in default ten days after the payment date.
- Right of Prepayment: They will want to verify whether or not the lender permits prepayment of the outstanding balance due on the mortgage loan, and whether or not prepayment entails payment of a penalty.
- Events of Default: The principal "'event of default" is. of course nonpayment of an installment. There I usually are other such ••events of default," however, such as the borrower's insolvency or the filing of a judgment / against the borrower, that the borrower will want to know about.
- Acceleration:Most notes call for an acceleration of the debt in the event of borrower's default, i.e., if the borrower fails to make a payment when due, the lender may declare the entire amount of the loan immediately due < and payable, and if the borrower cannot reimburse the entire amount of the loan, the lender may foreclosure the mortgage. It is important that the borrower know of this consequence of a failure to comply with applicable obligations.
The mortgage is a contract between the borrower and lender. Its purpose is to secure, or guarantee, the lender against loss of the loan amount in the event of Buyer's default. A mortgage creates a lien on the property in Florida and in many other states. In some '"title theory" states, the mortgagee, i.e., the lender, becomes the actual owner of record of the mortgaged property, but the effect is identical and methods of foreclosure, etc. are not significantly different in "title theory" states than in '"lien theory" states such as Florida.
The mortgage agreement is executed by the borrower and recorded in the real property records of the county where the property is situated. Before the mortgage can be recorded, certain taxes must be paid (in Florida, for example, the intangibles tax). Because a mortgage contains requirements affecting the use of the mortgaged property and because it also governs the foreclosure process, the prospective borrower will want to have a lawyer review the document. In particular, a borrower should ask about, and examine, the following matters:
- Legal Description: any error in the legal description harms the lender more than the Buyer, but it nevertheless is important that this description be correct at the outset.
- Loan Amount: Check to be sure the description of the debt being secured by the mortgage is complete and correct, including interest rates and default rates, if any.
- Special Requirements: If the lender requires that the Buyer insure the encumbered property, for example, or fulfill other requirements (keep the property in good condition, etc.), these requirements will figure in the mortgage agreement and should be reviewed by the borrower.
- Events of Default and Acceleration Clauses: The borrower will want to review the so-called "Events of Default" and the remedies provided for the lender in the event of a default (acceleration of the outstanding debt, foreclosure, etc.). Grace periods for payment of installments should be verified, and if none are provided, should be requested.
- Second (Junior) Mortgages: Some lenders pennit the borrower as owner of the property to contract for subsequent loans from other lenders and to secure such later loans by a second mortgage on the property. Others strictly prohibit any 'junior" mortgages or encumbrances. The borrower will want to verify the rules governing junior mortgages if any are contained in the mortgage instrument.
POST CLOSING CONSIDERATIONS
A Buyer who purchases real property for cash has less to worry about than a Buyer who finances the acquisition of the property through a loan provided by a financial institution. The borrower who acquires real property encumbered by a mortgage should be aware of several matters that must be attended to for as Payment of mortgage installments: Obviously, the foreign borrower will want to take steps to have mortgage payments made in a timely manner, in U.S. dollars. The easiest system is to have the borrower's bank in the U.S. make pre-authorized payments. It is most important also that the foreign owner verify from time to time that the payment arrangements in fact are being respected. Some foreign borrowers have had to defend foreclosure actions by lenders because payments on the mortgage were never made by the person charged with making them. Finally, foreign owners should be sure to get the name of the bankor mortgage company officer with whom they will be dealing in connection with the mortgage. In case of difficulty, a U.S. representative of the foreign owner will need this information before all else. Taxes and Insurance Payments: Many mortgage lenders require that insurance and real property tax payments be made in advance and held in escrow so as to be sure that proper and timely payment will be made. If this is not done in a specific case, the borrower will be responsible for ensuring that taxes and insurance premiums are paid on time. The danger of not doing so is obvious. Nonpayment of real property taxes, for example, can result not only in a default under the mortgage agreement (with the attendant danger of foreclosure) but also in administrative liens being placed on the property and eventually, a tax sale of the property.
Condition of the Property: The foreign owner who does not travel often to the U.S. should make arrangements to have someone inspect the property periodically to make sure that nothing happens to violate any local ordinances or laws affecting any structures on it. The electrical and plumbing systems also should be checked.
Mail forwarding: It is extremely important to have any mail concerning the property forwarded promptly to a responsible person. In many U.S. cities, local authorities mail out administrative notices concerning the property to the owner at the address indicated on the public record. These notices can be very important insofar as the status of ownership of the property is concerned. Foreign owners must take every precaution to be sure that such mail is forwarded to the owner or to the owner's U.S. attorney or other responsible person.
Despite present market conditions, United States real property has generally proved to be an excellent investment and financing is in fact available to potential non-resident alien purchasers.
Potential purchasers should keep in mind that speculation is no longer advisable. Buying real estate for a quick resale at a profit is no longer as feasible as it was only a short time ago, although in certain locations this remains possible. It is now more important than ever, even indispensable, to consult qualified brokers and other professionals before incurring obligations involving Florida real property.
Financing the acquisition of U.S. real property entails particularly for non-resident borrowers, much paper work and the execution of numerous documents and instruments. The above discussion underscores important precautions to be taken by a foreign purchaser who obtains financing in connection with an investment in real property. There are, of course, other issues. We conclude, therefore, as we began, by recommending that the foreign investor obtain competent professional advice regarding any transaction in the U.S. The cost of this advice almost always is minor when compared to the dangers and pitfalls it allows the investor to avoid.