The Buying Process


From a legal standpoint the United States is one of the safest places to buy property. It has a strong, regulated legal system that protects the buyer at every stage along the way.

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At first glance buying property in the USA may seem similar to buying property in other common law countries such as Ireland and the UK, and seems very different from civil law countries like France or Spain. Though while there are more similarities with common law countries, each system has its own unique attributes, and you’d be well advised to get familiar with the terminology and process. This page gives you a brief overview on the basic process, but by no means exhaustive. For more detail speak with one of our licensed realtors or consult a lawyer for any legal questions.

The Steps

What can I expect?

Buying a property in the US, even from abroad is quite a straight forward process and also quite a regulated process ensuring the best protections for the buyer in all aspects.

Real estate agents in Florida are all professionally qualified and licensed. The agency itself is both licensed and closely regulated. So are the individual sales people working in it. In addition the process of transferring ownership is overseen and guaranteed by a title insurance company.

Step 1

Making an offer

Step 1

Once you’re happy with the property and satisfied with its condition etc., your estate agent will make an offer. The offer is normally made in writing, then the estate agent will send you a standard form to fill out which will contain all the pertinent information from which the contract will be drawn up.

At this stage it is also common to sign a ‘binder’ or ‘option contract’, where you would put down a reservation deposit on a property in order to take it off the market. As the buyer you are not obliged at this point to complete the sale, but if you do change your mind you’ll lose the deposit, unless there was prior agreement to the contrary. So make sure you’ve got the property that’s right for you!

Step 2

Signing the contract

Step 2

Contracts in the US comply with the general premise of common law, so there must be a written, signed agreement between buyer and seller. You can give power of attorney to someone else to sign if you wish. Which of course is useful if you are abroad at time of signing. This process can normally take up to two weeks.

Step 3

Checking Title

Step 3

After the contract is signed the title of the property will be checked to the buyer’s ad lender’s satisfaction, to ensure all is in order with the title deed and ownership, and that no information is on the title that may negatively impact the buyer or seller. This process is carried out normally by a title insurance company. The title company will send you an insurance proposal to sign. This should be checked by your real estate agent and / or by your lawyer ahead of signing the final title commitment.

Step 4

Financing and arranging a mortgage

Step 4

Money must be collected from the buyer to cover the purchase price and all expenses. If you’re taking out mortgage finance then arrangements must be made in a timely fashion to satisfy all of your bank’s requirements so that they will release any funds needed at closing.

Step 5

Closing

Step 5

At closing:

  • The buyer pays the balance of the purchase price and receives the keys to the property. Of course, frequently, this balance is paid in park from the proceeds of a mortgage loan. This requires further paperwork.
  • The deed and mortgage instruments are explained and signed
  • Title passes from seller to buyer
  • Title insurance is confirmed

When sending funds to the US its advisable to use a reputable foreign exchange broker. You can save a sizable amount.

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