As home prices have declined in Arizona, the goal of many Canadian citizens of owning a home in the U.S. has become a reality. Instead of shoveling snow and battling freezing temperatures, Canadian second home owners can be dealing with other issues such as which golf course should I play today, or how early do I want to get up to go hiking or jogging, and where should we go for dinner. I’ve also noticed that many Canadian homeowners who live on a lake in Canada have a desire to duplicate that scenic landscape and have inquired about lakefront homes in Phoenix. When a buyer from Canada decides to pursue owning property in Arizona, there are some considerations they should be aware of.
Getting a loan in the U.S. as a Canadian citizen
A frequent question is, “Can a Canadian get a loan through a U.S. bank?” It has been somewhat of a moving target; however, as of this writing there are companies that do offer loans to Canadians through a U.S. bank. There are some conditions. For example, one lender requires that the down payment must be at least 30% and the borrower must have 6 months reserve in a U.S. bank. And the maximum loan amount is $417,000 and requires a 700 FICO score. It’s best to talk to a loan officer that is familiar with these loan options. If you’d like contact information on banks that do provide loans to Canadian citizens, please call me directly.
Earnest Money, Escrow and Signing
Earnest money which is used to open escrow once the offer has been accepted must be in U.S. funds. Another difference is that in Arizona attorneys are typically not involved in the transaction. Title/escrow companies take care of the title insurance and make sure the contract is executed as written. This makes for a much more streamlined escrow and smooth closing process. In fact, the buyer(s) do not need to be present at closing, and the necessary paperwork can be signed in Canada and sent via priority mail to the title/escrow company prior to closing. Possession takes place once the transaction has recorded with the county recorder.
When a Canadian buyer is ready to place an offer on a house and no financing will be required since it will be a cash transaction, the proof of funds (typically a bank statement) may be required to be in U.S. funds.
The 10 day inspection period begins once the offer has been accepted. During this time, it is the buyer’s opportunity and responsibility to inspection the property and the surrounding area in detail. The Arizona Department of Real Estate has provided the Buyer Advisory to assist buyers in their due diligence.
Most Arizona properties are platted and do not require a survey. This is different from Canada where a surveyor’s certificate is required.
FIRPTA – The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act
The Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) kicks in when the seller is a foreign person. Typcially not an issue when buying a property, it will come into play when selling. One of the exemptions to FIRPTA is that the house sells for less than $300,000. It is in place to insure that foreign persons are not purchasing property only to sell it later at a profit without paying taxes. A foreign person is a nonresident alien individual; a foreign corporation not treated as a domestic corporation; or a foreign partnership, trust or estate. A resident alien is not considered a foreign person under FIRPTA. IRS Publication 515 can provide more detailed information.
The Phoenix area provides a great second home get-away for Canadians looking for a repreive from the harsh winters. For detailed information regarding Arizona homes for sale, contact me at your convenience. Or receive property listings via e-mail that fit your winter vacation home criteria.
Here’s some feedback from one of my favorite Canadian clients last year who live in Alberta and their feedback on the process:
“Just thought that we’d drop you a quick note to let you know how much we enjoyed working with you on the recent purchase of our home in Phoenix. No surveyor’s certificate and no legal fees made the process a lot less stressful than buying our home in Alberta.
We, seriously, don’t know how we would have managed without you. Since the inspections, utilities hook-ups, and all the paperwork were initiated by you, all we had to do was – literally – get the key and move in.
So “THANK YOU” and be assured than we are passing your information on to anyone we meet who talks about investing in property in Arizona.
All the best,
Jim & Annette
Millet, Alberta ”