Buying a Home When You’re Not a U.S. Citizen
Immigrants are having a significant impact on the U.S. housing market. According to the Research Institute for Housing America, immigrants accounted for nearly 40% of the net increase in U.S. homeowners from 2000 to 2010. Meanwhile, the same group estimates that U.S. homeownership rates among Latino immigrants will hit 50% by the year 2020.
Overall, the number of immigrant homeowners is still relatively small, representing only 11.2% of owner-occupied homes in 2014, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies. Even so, that’s up from 6.8% 20 years earlier.
So immigrants are clearly buying homes. But what sort of obstacles and challenges do they face that native-born homebuyers do not?
There are no legal barriers to foreign nationals buying property, owning homes or obtaining loans in the U.S.
Foreign investors buy U.S. property and do business with U.S. banks all the time — getting a mortgage and buying a home is simply more of the same, on a smaller scale.
“Residency of any kind is not a requirement for home ownership in the U.S.,” said Jason Madiedo, president of Alterra Home Loans, in Las Vegas. “The challenge for the consumer is to gain financing.”
Documenting Foreign Financial Info Can Be a Challenge
For a legal immigrant with an established employment and credit history in this country, the process of buying a home is much the same as it is for a citizen. However, there are still certain challenges that non-citizens may face when seeking to buy a home in the U.S. that native-born borrowers are unlikely to encounter.
“It becomes a little more difficult for a foreign national to buy an owner-occupied property unless they’re here with a job in the U.S.,” said Bill Ashmore, president of IMPAC Mortgage in Irvine, California. “The longer somebody’s here and the more they can document their income through tax returns, the better off they are.”