Can foreigners buy land in America? Are there any restrictions?
It is very easy for any foreigner to buy land in America and it is the same process as for any US citizens buying land in USA.
- Find some land you want to buy
- Contact the seller or the agent
- Buy it
The USA does not require that a person be a US citizen to buy land. In most states there are no restrictions at all.
Be careful though if you are looking to buy property in an housing association or a building condominium associations.
Some of them have rules that prohibit absentee owners. This is less likely to occur with land and usually only happens with buildings.
Why do foreigners buy land in America?
The US is thriving at the moment. People from all over the world can see the booming stock market and booming real estate market and want to benefit as well.
The US has a stable real estate market with clear laws on ownership. Many countries around the world do not have this.
If some foreigners have done well in business or in their career, they may want to diversify in a great country like the USA or they may want some stability over their currency by keeping some assets in USD.
Of course there are also huge foreign conglomerates and companies that seek to buy land in USA for the purposes of expanding their operations or agriculture in the USA.
What is the process for foreigners to buy land in America?
Most people buy land with cash which makes buying land in USA a very easy process. Securing finance to buy land is challenging (for both US citizens and foreigners) by for reasons discussed in previous posts.
If you are buying a home, however and need to secure a mortgage, there will be some more stringent hoops for foreigners to jump through from the banks to secure financing.
When buying land as a foreigner, you may be able to enquire about whether owner financing is available. This will depend on the owner of the land if they wish to deal with foreigners or not.
If you are in this situation as a foreign buyer, it is always a good idea to try to arrange a call with the owner and explain your situation and try to establish trust and rapport.
Owner finance situations are based on mutual trust. Most sellers are just trying to ensure that they will be paid without any extra hassles.
Maybe you can suggest paying early each month or making a higher down payment or paying a higher monthly amount to sweeten the deal for the seller and make your proposal more attractive.
If you are able to pay cash and wish go through title company and escrow- you should have no trouble at all. The seller will know that the title company will have cleared funds before closing the deal, so both sides are protected here.
Are there other requirements for foreigners who buy land in USA?
By law, everyone who owns land needs to pay property taxes.
These may be levied annually or quarterly by the county.
You must be able to receive statements in your home country. If for any reason you cannot receive statements in the post or your mail service is unreliable, you can always call the County Treasurer, ask what taxes are owing and pay over the phone.
If you do not pay your property taxes, penalties and interest accrue and eventually you may lose your land entirely.
How do foreigners find land in USA to buy?
The process is identical for a foreigner as for a US citizen.
Most of the hunting occurs online.
You might choose to look at real estate agents websites or land investors websites or land auction websites.
Know your criteria in advance.
Why do you want land?
Do you want farming land?
To be in the path of growth?
Residential land to build on one day?
It is easy, free and quick to browse the web and start to get a feel of pricing and what is out there.
Be sure to get information on utilities, road access, property taxes, zoning restrictions and topography.
If you are after something specific that you cannot find, feel free to reach out to a real estate agent or land investor and let them know what you want and see if they are able to source it for you.
The main problem is likely to be checking out the property.
Depending on the land value, you could either:
- Make a trip to the US and go visit 5-10 potential land sites you have identified as possibilities in person.
- Hire a surveyor or realtor to go check it out and give you their opinion
- Buy “sight unseen”- to be honest, google maps and google earth are truly spectacular these days. While they are not the same as being there in person- they are pretty darn close! You can see the property, topography, nearby neighborhoods, nearby lakes, forests etc
It is always a good idea to call the county planning department and chat through your plans with them. You need to make sure that what you plan to do with the land is permitted.
The land seller will give you the zoning information eg commercial, agricultural or residential- but a quick phone call if you have specific or unusual plans will help avoid difficult situations down the track if there is a clause or a restriction you were unaware of.
How best to pay for the land when foreigners buy land in America?
Most transacting online these days is very simple. Depending on the transaction value (like a down payment) most land sellers will accept credit card.
For the bulk of the payment, you will make wire transfer or bank transfer. You will be required to pay the bank fees for foreign transactions (typically $20-$35).
How do foreigners buying land in USA get title?
If you go through a title company, the title company will record the new deed with your details at the county and provide you a copy.
If you deal direct with the seller, once they receive final payment for the land, they will record the deed in your name at the county and provide you a copy. It can be posted to you, emailed to you or both.
Is there anything foreigners should know about selling land in USA?
As a foreigner, when you sell any land you bought in the United States, the sale is subject to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA) income tax withholding.
To ensure that taxes on the sale of the land are collected from foreign taxpayers, FIRPTA requires those who buy land from non-U.S citizens to withhold 10% of the sales price.
As the seller, you may apply to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reduce this 10% to the amount of tax estimated to be due. The IRS routinely and quickly approves such applications from sellers.
You may want to hire a real estate attorney or a tax professional CPA to help you better understand FIRPTA and how you can stay compliant with the 10% tax withholding.
Some countries will have tax treaties set up with the US, you will need to get individual advice.
If you aim to earn income from your land, you should also consult a CPA tax professional as you may be required to file income taxes. Again this will very on an individual basis.
How much land is owned by foreigners in US?
Did you know that according to NPR in 2019 nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors?
Between April 2014-March 2015, foreigners purchased over $104 billion worth of land and real estate in USA.
This set a new record 8% of all existing home sales in the country.
China, Taiwan and Hong Kong bought $28.6 billion, Canadians bought $11 billion, India bought $7.9 billion and the rest of the ownership was spread out across the world.
Nationwide, Canadian investors own the most farmland. According to the USDA report in 2000, foreign individuals and corporations owned 16 million acres (or 1.2 percent) of the 1.3 billion acres of privately owned agricultural land.
However, with many US farmers approaching retiring age, they are looking to be able to sell and retire over the next decade however many of their children do not wish to take over the property and engage in a farming career.
To be fair, U.S. farmers and corporations also invest in overseas agriculture, owning billions of dollars of farmland from Australia to Brazil.
The USA is an amazing place to buy land if you are a foreigner looking to diversify your portfolio away from your home country. It is simple and easy to do and online tools mean you can check the land out in very close detail very accurately before you buy.
We have many foreign buyers and can talk you through the process if you want to ask any questions via email or phone- get in touch
The USA is an amazing place to buy land if you are a US citizen and looking to one day build for retirement, diversify your portfolio, start a hobby farm or homestead. With the US being such an attractive place for foreign investment, make sure you buy your land before you get priced out.
Happy to help!