Buying Property in the USA
There are no sales taxes (VAT) when buying or selling Real Property in Florida. The price you pay for the house is the total price. However, there are “closing costs” when both selling and buying (see separate section on Closing Costs).
Included as part of the “closing costs” you will have the following taxes:
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, then you will pay to the State of Florida Documentary Stamps on the amount of the mortgage at the rate of 35 cents for each $100 of mortgage. You will also pay an Intangible Tax at the rate of 2 mills (.002) on the mortgage amount.
So, for example, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, you would pay $350 Documentary Stamps and $200 Intangible Tax. If you are paying cash for the property, then you have none of these taxes.
You will pay to the State of Florida Documentary Stamps on the Deed, which is the full amount of the selling price, at the rate of 70 cents per $100. For example, on a $150,000 house, you would pay $1,050.
You will pay Property Taxes to the county in which your property is located. This property tax is paid annually on the assessed value of your property (which is usually around 75% or so of the actual market value of the property). The amount of taxes varies greatly with each neighborhood and depends on facilities and schools in that neighborhood, but an average amount for property taxes on a $150,000 house would be somewhere around $2,000.
The only other taxes you would pay would be taxes on any profits when you sell your property, but your accountant would be able to help you with that. A non-resident alien is usually subject to withholding tax here in the USA, which he then would most likely be able to claim back as a Foreign Tax Credit on his Irish tax return.
In the State of Florida, we do not generally use lawyers for Real Estate transactions, as there is absolutely no need. All the legalities are taken care of by Title Companies, which are used to doing thousands of transactions, most of which are standard. They charge a set fee of only around $150 to $300, depending on what has to be done. The most expensive part of this whole process is the issuing of Title Insurance, which basically protects the property owner (and the lender, if there is a mortgage) from any defects on the title. Most people will be unfamiliar with the concept of Title Insurance, but it is a system that has been in use in the States for years (It has been introduced in Ireland and is used here by IIB Homeloans and Irish Life and Permanent in many re-mortgaging cases)
Title insurance can be as much as 1% of the property value, but there is a move currently to be very flexible on that (more news in the future on that subject). A Buyer can usually be pretty well assured that there will be no surprises in the future, since Florida laws are very strict on such things as the recording of liens. Also there is great protection for Florida property owners, more so than many other countries.
In addition to the above-mentioned Doc Stamps, Legal Costs and Title Insurance, there will be small recording fees to record the mortgage and the deed. Buyers will need an appraisal to verify that the value of the property is indeed at least as much as they are paying (if obtaining a mortgage, the lender will require that). This is usually around $300. Also, a termite inspection has to be done to check there is no infestation of termites, usually around $65. Lenders also will require a survey (around $300) and charge around $60 to obtain a credit report on the Borrower and there will be fees from the Lender and Mortgage Broker to issue a mortgage, but these fees vary greatly.
You can usually estimate about 2% for closing costs as a Seller (in addition to Real Estate Broker commissions of around 6%) and 2.5% – 3.% if you are a Buyer with a mortgage.
No visas are needed for Irish citizens to enter the USA as tourists and the length of stay allowed is three months. You can apply for an extension to six months.
Coming to live in the USA is another matter and can get quite complicated. One would need to talk to the US Embassy in Ireland to check on the various ways of immigrating.
Property Management – Sarasota Signature Real Estate has a Property Management Division
If you are not planning on coming to live in the US, you will be well advised to have a property management company manage your property. The Florida weather can be quite harsh on property and if a house is left without regular maintenance, your investment can very quickly deteriorate. Also, Florida has its fair share of pests, such as termites, cockroaches etc, which need constant supervision.
In order to get the best return on your investment, you will probably want to rent out your property when you are not there. Sarasota Signature will rent out the property, will be responsible for paying your property bills, filing your monthly tax returns (for the sales taxes and tourist taxes which have to be collected when you rent out your property), keeping licenses up to date, making sure your garden and pool are regularly maintained (as grass and weeds can soon overtake everything and pools can become green in no time if not taken care of).