If you are a nonresident of the United States and are considering real estate investments in the U.S., the first thought is “Where do I start?” It is a big job to buy real estate in your home country. Investing in a faraway land adds to the complexity.
Here is a quick set of milestones to help you think through the process. This comes from an email I just sent to someone who is thinking about starting the investment process, and I edited it a bit for clarity. I hope it helps.
Your project, I think, has the following milestones:
- Investment objectives. Tentative decision on type/location/size of investments. (You’ve done this already).
- Management requirements. Determination of amount of management required. (Can you outsource 100% or will there be a lot of work from you or from people you trust?) Example: a major retail shopping center has scads of maintenance people, janitors, leasing agents, etc. and it is an all-the-time job to keep the place rented and maintained. Yes, you can job out the janitorial work etc. to outside firms, but you need to monitor the jobbed-out work to make sure it’s done right, so that means you have a manager or two on staff on your own payroll.)
- Analysis and selection on holding structure. Given the type of property you want to buy, and the practical needs for hands-on management, choose how to own and operate the real estate investments. Factors involved:
- Type/location/size of investments (from above). This helps you make the cost/benefit analysis necessary for the holding structure. Bigger investments mean more complexity expense will pay off with tax savings. Smaller investments mean “keep it simple.”
- Management structure you need to carry (from above). (Translation: do you need a dedicated property management company or not?)
- U.S. and [home country] income tax considerations on rental income
- U.S. and [home country] tax consequences on sale of the property
- U.S. and [home country] tax considerations for tax if you have the bad judgment to die 🙂
- Business considerations, such as lenders — will your structure be something that a bank will lend to?
Create holding structure taking into consideration the factors above and a rigorous eye on cost/benefit considerations Buy property. This is the fun part, right? People and operations. Find key people to help you with owning/operating the real estate and holding structure — property management, bookkeeping, legal, tax returns, etc.