Eight Tips for Getting Started in Real Estate Investing
This article is just the basics for getting started in real estate investing. This is not a how to article but an article that gives you some information about things to do to get started. Everything in this article is tools that can be applied to helping anyone get started in real estate investing. I am going to give you my eight keys to getting started. Nothing is right or wrong but reflects the point of view of the author. Laws and legal practices vary from state to state, and laws can change over time. The author does not vouch for the legality of his opinions, nor is there any intent to supply legal advice. The author strongly encourages the reader to consult with professionals and an attorney prior to entering in any real estate transaction or contract. The author is not a writer but he is a real estate investor. There will be grammar mistakes and errors, so don’t be too critical of the grammar but focus your energy on what is being said. With that said prepare yourself to think a little differently and expand your mind. Let’s get started on an amazing adventure.
The Eight Tips are as follows
2. Goal Setting
3. Learning What To Do
4. Attending a Real Estate Investing Seminar
5. The Billings Montana Market
6. Finding a Mentor
7. Your Real Estate Team
8. Just Do IT
Before we get in to the bolts and nails of real estate investing in I want to talk to you about desire. If you are going to be successful at anything in life including real estate investing you have to have the desire to do it. Desire is defined as longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment. Desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim. In real estate investing if you don’t have a desire to learn and grow as a human being and really get satisfaction out of it, then real estate investing is going to be hard to do. When I go out and look at a property it brings me a lot of enjoyment. Every aspect brings me joy from talking to home owners, figuring out how I can make a deal work, to buying the house and to finding a good homeowner or tenant for the house. Real estate investing may not be for everyone but real estate investing can offer anyone the financial freedom we all crave for. If you do not have the desire for real estate investing that is ok, it can still help you to live your dreams and help you to get where you want to go in the future.
Why is real estate investing an amazing avenue for anyone to live out all of their dreams? Let me ask you a few questions. Do you have enough money to do anything you want? Do you have everything you want? No debt? A nice house? Great Marriage? The freedom to do anything regardless of how much it costs and the time it takes? If you have all of these things then you are one of the few people in America who does. Most people may be working fifty hours a week and making just enough to pay their bills. In today’s day and age most people are living pay check to pay check never really knowing if they will make enough to pay the bills that just keep piling up. If you cannot keep up with your monthly bills how are you going to plan for retirement or send your kids to college or have time to enjoy life. The answer to all of these questions is becoming financially free. Now it’s not going to be easy everyone will have to get off the couch and out of their comfort zone. Real estate is proven to be one of the fastest ways to get your out of the rat race of the nine to five and begin living the life you deserve to live. Everyone wants something different out of their life. Some dream of traveling the world, spending more time with family, volunteering, golfing, laying on a beach, giving back to the community, or anything that will make them happy. There are thousands of things that make people happy.
Making it in real estate takes a person who has a strong desire to change their lives for the better and think big. Anyone can become a great real estate investor. It is going to take a lot of work and can be a struggle at times but in the end it will be the most amazing feeling ever. The people that make it in real estate investing all have a few things in common. First they run their real estate investing business like any other business out there. Second they get out there and network with anyone and everyone. Some people might be like me and have a hard time talking to other people. If you are that is ok, anyone can learn how to become a people person, it just takes hard daily work. You have to push yourself past your comfort zone. The third thing is that you cannot be afraid to fail. Everyone has failed at something but the most successful people out their learn from their failures. The fourth thing is that you have to put a good team together. I will go into putting a team together in a later chapter. The concept of putting a team together is so that when you don’t know something you have team members that know what to do and can help you with questions. The can also make sure that you are not working yourself to death. You do not want to be the person doing everything in your business. Doing everything is a receipt for failure. You have to put together good people who you can trust and rely on. The fifth thing is that you need a mentor. Sixth and final is the desire to do it. No one can become successful at something if they don’t want to do it and don’t get satisfaction out of what they are doing.
2. Setting Goals
Having goals is one of the most important aspects of achieving what you want in life. You don’t want to just have your goals up in your head you want to write them down and past what you have wrote on the wall somewhere or in the bathroom mirror. You want to review your goals daily and read them out loud to yourself. This way you remind yourself everyday why you are building your business.
How should you start to write down you goals? First off you should think big, and by big I mean HUGE. If your goals are too small you will easily achieve them and have nothing else to look forward too. You should start off by asking yourself the question if I had all the money and time in the world what would I do, what would I buy, how would I spend my time, and how would I spend my energy. Are you starting to write these down? Well you should be. Think about what you want, spending time with family, traveling the world, the best cars, a castle, owning a small country, running for president, having the biggest real estate investing business in your area or in the country. Whatever your dreams and what you want out of your life, write it down. Some of my goals are becoming free, traveling the world, having a Ferrari, having 10 vacation homes all over the world. Right now I am just trying to get you out of your comfort zone of thinking and let your imagination run.
There are several ways to set goals. I have learned a lot of ways you can set you goals and there is no right or wrong way. The best ways that I have found to set your goals is to break them up into two categories. First your short term goals. This should be goals from a month out to around a year. The second is your long term goals these goals are you think big goals and what you see for your future.
For year one I like to first make a list of what I want to achieve this year and I will give you an example of how to do that. For year one you want to be very specific first you want to list what you want your income to be at the end of the year, next how much cash in the bank you want (this is money in your checking account, not assets). Next you want to list how much you are going to give. Giving is a very important, this can be giving to charity, giving of gifts to friends and family, giving to your school or anything you can dream of. As long as what you give brings joy to others who need it more than you. Next list what bad habits you have that you want to eliminate. Weather is be quitting smoking, spending too much on junk, drinking too much, working too much, not spending enough time with family, too much TV, not exercising and many more. We all have bad habits that need to be changed in order for use to grow as human beings. Under each of these bad habits list out some steps that you can take in order to quit them. If you bad habit is being lazy and not exercising enough what can you do to change that. Well you can get a gym membership or a home work out program. Commit yourself you following through with a plan to work out 3-5 days a week. For you to change these bad habits you have to be totally committed and follow through with a detailed plan you set for yourself. After you have your plans in place you should start listing several things you want to achieve or do in the next year. This can be start a successful business, spend time with family, travel to 2-5 places and so on. Now under each of these you should also write a detailed plan on what you need and what you need to do in order to achieve these goals. Finally you should take all of this information you have a write on page on what you see your life being over the next year. Doing this is a great exercise to really see what you want out of life.
Goals Year One
This is what I am going To Do This Year
Bad Habits that will be changes:
Over Sleeping 1. Go to bed at 11 p.m. 2. Use a timer and set it for 8 hours 3. Set the timer on the other side of the room
Buying things that you don’t need: 1. Going out shopping less 2. If you have the urge to buy something think to yourself is thing item going to help me to achieve my goals of becoming financially free? 3. Tell friends what you are doing, so they can help to stop you.
What I want to Achieve:
Start a successful Real Estate Investing Business: (you should write a detailed step by step plan of everything you need in order to achieve your goal)
Travel: Where do I want to visit? 1. Gators football game (what I need to do it, money, etc)
And last your own page about what you want to achieve using words like I will and only positive words.
For long term goals you don’t need to be as specific right now, but you should list them and under them list a few steps or smaller goals that need to be achieved before you are able to achieve them. With the long term goals always think big. Another good exercise for long term goals is to make a collage of you goals. Put pictures of the house you want on it, places you want to travel, a picture of your family, a number of what income you want in or anything you can think of.
Knowledge builds confidence and destroys fear. If you are starting any kind of business you need to learn the ins and outs of that business. The best way I have found to learn about real estate investing is to read all about it. But once you know it you have to apply what you have learned. Learning and reading is just one step to take. There are thousands of books on the market about real estate investing and everyone has something you can learn from. You don’t just want to read real estate investing books though. You also want to fill yourself with motivational and leadership books. Every successful person that I know if a reader and they all spend at least thirty minutes a day reading something that will teach them about improving their business or helping themselves to become a better person. Some of the best books that I would recommend reading are listed below.
1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (read this first and also ready everything in the rick dad poor dad series, great books to start with and will expand you mind)
2. Be a Real Estate Millionaire by Dean Graziosi
3. Flip your way to financial freedom by Preston Ely (this is an E-Book)
4. Four hour work week by Timothy Ferriss
5. The Attractor Factor
6. Short Sale Pre-foreclosure Investing by Dwan Bent-twyford and Sharon Sestrepo
7. Keys to success, by Napoleon Hill
8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
9. How to win friends and influence people
10. Any Book by John C. Maxwell (he has tons of amazing leadership books)
11. Getting Started in Real Estate Day Trading by Larry Goins
12. The E Myth by Michael Gerber
13. How to be a quick turn real estate millionaire by Ron Legrand
14. The Power of Full Engagement
15. The It Factor
16. Anything by Anthony Robins
There are tons more you can read but these will give you a great start. You should also read books on negotiating, sales, motivation, and biographies on American business people.
I hope this list gives you the knowledge it has given me. If you learn and apply what you have learned from these books there is no reason that you should not become very successful.
4. Attend a Real Estate Investing Seminar
Attending a Real Estate Investing Seminar can be one of the best places to learn about real estate investing from some very well known experts. There are several seminars going on all over the country every weekend. If you live in a big city it will be very easy to find one. If you live in a town like Billings Montana you might need to travel a little ways to find one. Now most of the best meeting cost money to attend them. Some range from five hundred dollars for three days and some can be up to $20,000. There are a few that I would recommend. Than Merrill is a great speaker to go hear. I have learned a ton from him. You can find his company online by Google searching him. Also rich dad poor dad has seminars all over the country. I attended one of their seminars in Billings Montana for only $500 dollars and learned a ton from it. There is also Preston Ely, Larry Goins, and hundreds of speakers out there. If you find a great book that you really enjoyed, then just simple search for that person online and see if they are speaking somewhere or offer a seminar close to you.
Another reason I recommend going to a seminar is because they get you pumped up and motivated. I have not yet found anything else that just gets you feeling like you can do anything. When you get back from one of these seminars you will have tons of energy and knowledge. Every time I get back from one all I want to do is going out and do a deal or ten.
These seminars will also provide you with several opportunities to purchase amazing real estate investing tools, software or learning material at a fraction of the cost. Believe me when I tell you all of the low priced seminars try to sell you something. But a lot of times what they are trying to sell is some really good stuff.
Another reason to attend a seminar is to network with other investors and build relationships with them. You can meet other investors who you can partner with on a deal, sell a deal too, people who will provide you with deals and so on. You should have hundreds of business cards made up and try to give them all out. You never know how much one business card you hand out can make you.
5. Learn About the real estate market in your area
Most real estate investors start their career off my investing around where they live. This is why I do my real estate investing in Billings Montana. You can venture out when you have more experience. The reason behind this is because we feel more comfortable with the areas and know the areas better. It is also easier to get local real estate information that we need. Investing in your local market is also cheaper to start out, there is less travel costs, you can see what you are buying and it may give you a feeling a comfort.
First you have to decide which part of town is the best place to invest in. This can be determined by what kind of real estate investing you choose to do. I have not gone over the types of real estate investing but some include rehabbing (fixing up and selling), wholesaling (finding deals and selling them to other investors), buying to rent, and there are a few others. These are the real estate strategies that I use for the most part. When looking at the market you need to see where other investors are buying their houses. Most of the best deals will be found in low to middle class neighbors hoods. By low I don’t mean drug infested war zones, what I mean is blue collar safe neighbor hoods that might have somewhat older houses and houses that are not on the higher end price side. Now you can find deals in the higher priced neighbor hoods but most will be in the low to middle income neighborhoods. When looking where others are buying ask local realtors, other investors or appraisers.
When talking with investors ask them several questions such as what neighborhoods they prefer, what type of houses they buy (3 bed 2 bath), and what they do (rehab, rent, wholesale). You should not look at other investors as competition but try and work with them.
There are different types of markets such as appreciating markets, flat markets, and deprecating markets. Appreciating markets are markets that there is no enough houses or a very high demand for houses which causes the price of houses to go up. The reason there is a high demand for housing can be because of job growth, a very appealing area, or several reason. Flat markets are markets that have no or very little growth. This means that there is not a lot of demand; buy just enough to fill every ones needs. Depreciating markets are where there is a lot more houses than people to fill those house. This causes house prices to start going down. This can be because of a large employer leaving the area, a natural disaster or just over building. There is an old saying buy in a bust and sell in a boom. In depreciating markets you can pick up several deals, while in appreciating the house prices are going to be much higher and harder to find great deals. The deal will still be out there you just have to know where to find them.
Learning your market is another key to becoming successful. Real estate Brokers and experts in your area can be the best source of information for you. Learn to use them to find out what kind of market you are in. If you are in Billings Montana we are in a pretty stable market. Billings Montana has not seen the ups and downs that other markets have experienced. I will have to say that I have been noticing a little bit of a downward trend but not much. Once the first time home buyer credit is over with we might see a little more decline. Every market can vary by neighborhood, so make sure you know you market well. I have seen the same houses just one mile apart selling for totally different prices.
6. Find a Mentor
Having a mentor to help you can be your biggest learning experience. Mentors can help you with any questions you may have, walk you step by step through the investing process, give you moral support, you learn from their proven system, and also network you with others in the business. Every successful real estate investor that I know says they owe a lot of their success to the mentors they have and had in their lives. I have had one of the best mentors around, my father. He is teaching me something new every day and pushing me to become successful.
When trying to find a mentor I would suggest network with the investors at your local real estate investors club meeting. There is a real estate investing club in Billings Montana that meets once a month. You can find information about real estate investing clubs in your area by searching for REA or real estate investors club then your area in Google. When you go to the meetings ask around who the biggest investors are. Then ask if you could get together with them sometime and discuss real estate investing. Ask them if they would consider working with you to get their career going. Offer your services as a bird dog. Bird dogs are people who go out find deals or leads about deals and give them to other investors. A bird dog gets from $500 to $3000 dollars depending on the deal. Make sure that you have a bird dog contract signed with the investors saying that if you find them and deal and they buy it that you get paid a certain amount of money. Being a bird dog helps you to build credibility with the investor and they are more likely to mentor you if you have something to offer them. If you would like to contact me with a question go to my web site Big Sky Property Solutions LLC.
7. Your Real Estate Team
Building an effective team can make your life as a real estate investor a lot easier. You are only one person and cannot do everything or be an expert in every aspect of real estate investing. Going at a project alone can become one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever encounter. Many people have become frustrated and quite real estate investing because they try and juggle too many things. Make sure that when putting a team together you provide everyone with win-win opportunities. When someone knows that working with you is going to make them money they will put you as a higher priority on their list. But you have to prove it to them that you are the real deal.
People to have on your real estate investing team include
o Real Estate Agents ( find the top agent for volume of sales in your area and other agents who work with real estate investors)
o Real Estate appraisers (find an appraiser that has done a few hundred jobs or more and make sure they carry errors and omissions insurance)
o Real estate contractors (good rehab crews that can get the job done in a timely manner, have 3-5 crews and on every deal get 3 estimates done. Ask for referrals from them and make sure they are licensed)
o Real estate attorneys (every investor needs an attorney, they can help to protect your assets, make sure you find one that works with investors)
o A property management company (can manage your properties and will give you leads on property they are managing that might come up for sale)
o Title companies (take care of the legal process and make sure there are no liens against the property you are buying, choose one that does hundreds of closings a year)
o Home inspectors(charge about $400 but will give you a great inspection and could save you thousands in the long run)
o And your Mentor
All of these people can help you in various aspects of real estate investing. You might find that there are a couple others that are keys to your business but this is just a list of a few.
8. Just Do it
There is no better phrase out there then JUST DO IT! Once you have learned all you can networked with investors in Billings and learned real estate investing strategies there is nothing left to do but get your feet wet. There is no better learning tool out there then doing a deal. Once you have completed that first deal you will know what to expect and find out that it is not as hard as you thought it would be. You will have learned what you did right and what was frustrating. Take that experience and ask yourself what would have made it run smoother. Apply that to your next deal. Then the next deal will be easier and it keeps getting easier as you go. I will say that every deal is different from the last but that what makes this business fun. You have to be creative and always keep on learning and growing with your business.
The average person never uses what they learn. Don’t be average apply your knowledge. When going out and doing your first deal act like you have done 1000′s of deals. The fastest way to change a habit is to act like it is true.
Five keys for success
1. Specialized Knowledge
2. Tools of a professional
3. Have the mindset of a winner
5. Money and the knowledge of leveraging it (you don’t have to have millions to invest in real estate, there are many strategies out there to use other people’s money, or no money at all)
This is going to conclude this article about getting started in real estate investing. I hope this gave you some ideas about how you can get started. I didn’t give you any strategies at this point but look for some in upcoming articles. These are simple steps you can use to get started. If you read this article thank you for listening.
There is some exciting news for foreign investors due to recent geo-political developments and the emergence of several financial factors. This coalescence of events, has at its core, the major drop in the price of US real estate, combined with the exodus of capital from Russia and China. Among foreign investors this has suddenly and significantly produced a demand for real estate in California.
Our research shows that China alone, spent $22 billion on U.S. housing in the last 12 months, much more than they spent the year before. Chinese in particular have a great advantage driven by their strong domestic economy, a stable exchange rate, increased access to credit and desire for diversification and secure investments.
We can cite several reasons for this rise in demand for US Real Estate by foreign Investors, but the primary attraction is the global recognition of the fact that the United States is currently enjoying an economy that is growing relative to other developed nations. Couple that growth and stability with the fact that the US has a transparent legal system which creates an easy avenue for non-U.S. citizens to invest, and what we have is a perfect alignment of both timing and financial law… creating prime opportunity! The US also imposes no currency controls, making it easy to divest, which makes the prospect of Investment in US Real Estate even more attractive.
Here, we provide a few facts that will be useful for those considering investment in Real Estate in the US and Califonia in particular. We will take the sometimes difficult language of these topics and attempt to make them easy to understand.
This article will touch briefly on some of the following topics: Taxation of foreign entities and international investors. U.S. trade or businessTaxation of U.S. entities and individuals. Effectively connected income. Non-effectively connected income. Branch Profits Tax. Tax on excess interest. U.S. withholding tax on payments made to the foreign investor. Foreign corporations. Partnerships. Real Estate Investment Trusts. Treaty protection from taxation. Branch Profits Tax Interest income. Business profits. Income from real property. Capitol gains and third-country use of treaties/limitation on benefits.
We will also briefly highlight dispositions of U.S. real estate investments, including U.S. real property interests, the definition of a U.S. real property holding corporation “USRPHC”, U.S. tax consequences of investing in United States Real Property Interests ” USRPIs” through foreign corporations, Foreign Investment Real Property Tax Act “FIRPTA” withholding and withholding exceptions.
Non-U.S. citizens choose to invest in US real estate for many different reasons and they will have a diverse range of aims and goals. Many will want to insure that all processes are handled quickly, expeditiously and correctly as well as privately and in some cases with complete anonymity. Secondly, the issue of privacy in regards to your investment is extremely important. With the rise of the internet, private information is becoming more and more public. Although you may be required to reveal information for tax purposes, you are not required, and should not, disclose property ownership for all the world to see. One purpose for privacy is legitimate asset protection from questionable creditor claims or lawsuits. Generally, the less individuals, businesses or government agencies know about your private affairs, the better.
Reducing taxes on your U.S. investments is also a major consideration. When investing in U.S. real estate, one must consider whether property is income-producing and whether or not that income is ‘passive income’ or income produced by trade or business. Another concern, especially for older investors, is whether the investor is a U.S. resident for estate tax purposes.
The purpose of an LLC, Corporation or Limited Partnership is to form a shield of protection between you personally for any liability arising from the activities of the entity. LLCs offer greater structuring flexibility and better creditor protection than limited partnerships, and are generally preferred over corporations for holding smaller real estate properties. LLC’s aren’t subject to the record-keeping formalities that corporations are.
If an investor uses a corporation or an LLC to hold real property, the entity will have to register with the California Secretary of State. In doing so, articles of incorporation or the statement of information become visible to the world, including the identity of the corporate officers and directors or the LLC manager.
An great example is the formation of a two-tier structure to help protect you by creating a California LLC to own the real estate, and a Delaware LLC to act as the manager of the California LLC. The benefits to using this two-tier structure are simple and effective but must one must be precise in implementation of this strategy.
In the state of Delaware, the name of the LLC manager is not required to be disclosed, subsequently, the only proprietary information that will appear on California form is the name of the Delaware LLC as the manager. Great care is exercised so that the Delaware LLC is not deemed to be doing business in California and this perfectly legal technical loophole is one of many great tools for acquiring Real Estate with minimal Tax and other liability.
Regarding using a trust to hold real property, the actual name of the trustee and the name of the trust must appear on the recorded deed. Accordingly, If using a trust, the investor might not want to be the trustee, and the trust need not include the investor’s name. To insure privacy, a generic name can be used for the entity.
In the case of any real estate investment that happens to be encumbered by debt, the borrower’s name will appear on the recorded deed of trust, even if title is taken in the name of a trust or an LLC. But when the investor personally guarantees the loan by acting AS the borrower through the trust entity, THEN the borrower’s name may be kept private! At this point the Trust entity becomes the borrower and the owner of the property. This insures that the investor’s name does not appear on any recorded documents.
Because formalities, like holding annual meetings of shareholders and maintaining annual minutes, are not required in the case of limited partnerships and LLCs, they are often preferred over corporations. Failing to observe corporate formalities can lead to failure of the liability shield between the individual investor and the corporation. This failure in legal terms is called “piercing the corporate veil”.
Limited partnerships and LLCs may create a more effective asset protection stronghold than corporations, because interests and assets may be more difficult to reach by creditors to the investor.
To illustrate this, let’s assume an individual in a corporation owns, say, an apartment complex and this corporation receives a judgment against it by a creditor. The creditor can now force the debtor to turn over the stock of the corporation which can result in a devastating loss of corporate assets.
However, when the debtor owns the apartment building through either a Limited Partnership or an LLC the creditor’s recourse is limited to a simple charging order, which places a lien on distributions from the LLC or limited partnership, but keeps the creditor from seizing partnership assets and keeps the creditor out the affairs of the LLC or Partnership.
Income Taxation of Real Estate
For the purposes of Federal Income tax a foreigner is referred to as nonresident alien (NRA). An NRA can be defined as a foreign corporation or a person who either;
A) Physically is present in the United States for less than 183 days in any given year. B) Physically is present less than 31 days in the current year. C) Physically is present for less than 183 total days for a three-year period (using a weighing formula) and does not hold a green card.
The applicable Income tax rules associated to NRAs can be quite complex, but as a general rule, the income that IS subject to withholding is a 30 percent flat tax on “fixed or determinable” – “annual or periodical” (FDAP) income (originating in the US), that is not effectively connected to a U.S. trade or business that is subject to withholding. Important point there, which we will address momentarily.
Tax rates imposed on NRAs may be reduced by any applicable treaties and the Gross income is what gets taxed with almost not offsetting deductions. So here, we need to address exactly what FDAP income includes. FDAP is considered to include; interest, dividends, royalties, and rents.
Simply put, NRAs are subject to a 30 percent tax when receiving interest income from U.S. sources. Included within the definitions of FDAP are some miscellaneous categories of income such as; annuity payments, certain insurance premiums, gambling winnings, and alimony.
Capital gains from U.S. sources, however, are generally not taxable unless: A)The NRA is present in the United States for more than 183 days. B) The gains can be effectively connected to a U.S. trade or business. C) The gains are from the sale of certain timber, coal, or domestic iron ore assets.
NRA’s can and will be taxed on capital gains (originating in the US) at the rate of 30 percent when these exceptions apply.Because NRA’s are taxed on income in the same manner as a US taxpayers when that income can effectively be connected to a US trade or business, then it becomes necessary to define what constitutes; “U.S. trade or business” and to what “effectively connected” means. This is where we can limit the taxable liability.
There are several ways in which the US defines “US trade or Business” but there is no set and specific code definition. The term “US Trade or Business” can be seen as: selling products in the United States (either directly or through an agent), soliciting orders for merchandise from the US and those goods out of the US, providing personal services in the United States, manufacturing, maintaining a retail store, and maintaining corporate offices in the United States.Conversely, there are highly specific and complex definitions for “effectively connected” involving the “force of attraction” and “asset-use” rules, as well as “business-activities” tests.
Generally and for simplistic explanation, an NRA is “effectively connected” if he or she is engaged as a General or limited partner in a U.S. trade or business. Similarly, if the estate or trust is so engaged in trade or business then any beneficiary of said trust or estate is also engaged
For real estate, the nature of the rental income becomes the critical concern. The Real Estate becomes passive if it is generated by a triple-net lease or from lease of unimproved land. When held in this manner and considered passive the rental income is taxed on a gross basis, at a flat rate of 30 percent with applicable withholding and no deductions.
Investors should consider electing to treat their passive real property income, as income from a U.S. trade or business, because the nature of this type of holding and loss of deduction inherent therein is often tax prohibited. However, the election can only be made if the property is generating income.
If the NRA owns or invests in or owns unimproved land that will be developed in the future, he or she should consider leasing the land. This is a great way to generate income. Investment in income-generating allows the NRA the ability to claim deductions from the property and generate a loss carry-forward that will offset income in future years.
There are many tools we can use to assist our NRA clients in avoiding taxation on Real Estate income property, one of which is ‘portfolio interest’, which is payable only on a debt instrument and not subject to taxation or withholding. There are several ways to fit within the confines of these ‘portfolio interest’ rules. NRAs can participate in the practice of lending through equity participation loans or loans with equity kickers. An equity kicker is like a loan that allows the lender to participate in equity appreciation. Allowing the lender to convert debt into equity in the form of a conversion option is one way that this can be accomplished as these provisions usually increase interest rates on a contingent basis to mimic equity participation.
There are two levels of tax applicable to a foreign individual or a foreign corporation who owns a U.S. corporation.
The U.S. corporation will be subject subjected to a 30 percent withholding tax on its profits, when the income is not re-invested in the United States and there will be a tax on dividends paid to the foreign shareholders as well. When the U.S. business is owned by a foreign corporation, whether directly or through a disregarded entity, or through a pass-through entity. The branch profits tax replicates the double tax.
The U.S. has treaties covering the ‘branch profits tax’ with most of the European nations, reducing the tax to between 5 and 10 percent. The 30 percent tax is onerous, as it applies to a “dividend equivalent amount,” which is the corporation’s effectively connected earnings and profits for the year, less investments the corporation makes in its U.S. assets (money and adjusted bases of property connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business). The tax is imposed even if there is no distribution.
Foreign corporations are taxed on their effectively connected income and on any deemed dividends, which are any profits not reinvested in the United State under the branch profits tax.
The rules applicable to the tax on the disposition of real estate are found in a separate regime known as the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA).
Generally, FIRTPA taxes an NRAs holdings of U.S. real property interest (USRPI) as if he or she were engaged in a U.S. trade or business. As mentioned earlier, this means that the traditional income tax rules that apply to U.S. taxpayers will also apply to the NRA. Obligation to withhold 10 percent of the amount realized on any disposition falls on purchasers who acquire a USRPI from an NRA.
Ownership and interests of Real Estate Property include: fee ownership, co-ownership, leasehold, timeshare, a life estate, a remainder, a reversion or a right to participate in the appreciation of real property or in the profits from real property. For purposes of definition interest in real property would include any ownership of personal property used to exploit natural resources, land, buildings, mineral deposits, crops, fixtures, operations to construct improvements, the operation of a lodging facility, or providing a furnished office to a tenant (including movable walls or furnishings) as well as Improvements, leaseholds, or options to acquire any of the above.
There are several ways in which a partnership interest is treated as a USRPI: A domestic corporation will be treated as a U.S. real property holding corporation (USRPHC) if USRPIs are equal to or exceed 50 percent of the sum of the corporation’s assets. OR when 50 percent or more of the value of the gross partnership assets consists of USRPIs – Or when 50 percent or more of the value of partnership gross assets consist of USRPIs plus cash and cash equivalents. The disposition of partnership interest will be subject to FIRPTA. To the extent that such partnership continues to own USRPIs they will remain subject to this withholding.
The good news is that disposition of an interest in a USRPHC is subject to the FIRPTA tax and withholding but is not subject to state income tax. There is an obvious benefit when compared with the disposition of a USRPI owned directly. USRPI which are owned directly are subject to the lower federal capital gains rate as well as state income tax. If, however on the date of the disposition the corporation had no USRPIs and the totality of the gain was fully recognized (no installment sales or exchanges) on the sale of any USRPIs sold within the past five years Then this disposition cannot be subject to these rules.
Any USRPI sold by an NRA (individual or corporation) will be subject to 10 percent withholding of the amount realized. Withholding applies even if the property is sold at a loss.
The purchaser must report the withholding and pay over the tax, using Form 8288 within 20 days of the purchase. This is to be duly noted because if the purchaser fails to collect the withholding tax from the foreigner, the purchaser will be liable for not only the tax, but also any applicable penalties and interest. The withheld taxes are later credited against the total tax liability of the foreigner.
Instances wherein withholding is not required, are the following:
The seller provides a certificate of non-foreign status. Property acquired by the purchaser is not a USRPI. The transferred property is stock of a domestic corporation and the corporation provides a certificate that it is not a USRPHC.
The USRPI acquired will be used by the purchaser as a residence and the amount realized by the foreigner on the disposition is $300,000 or less. The disposition is not subject to tax, or the amount realized by the foreigner on the disposition is zero.
Estate and Gift Tax: In determining who is an NRA and who is excluded the test is completely different for estate tax purposes. The focus of inquiry will centers around the decedent’s residence. This test is very subjective and focuses primarily on intent.The test considers factors from across the board, such as how long the NRA has been in the United States, how often he or she travels as well as the size, and cost of home in the United States. The test will also look at the location of NRA’s family, their participation in community activities, participation in U.S. business and ownership of assets in the United States. Voting is also taken into consideration.
A foreigner can be a U.S. resident for income tax purposes but not be domiciled for estate tax purposes. An NRA, whether a nonresident alien or non-domiciliary, will be subject to a different transfer taxes (estate and gift taxes) than a U.S. taxpayer. Only the gross part of the NRA’s Estate that at the time of death is situated in the United States will be taxed with the estate tax. Although the rate of NRA’s estate tax will be the same as that imposed on U.S. citizens and resident aliens, the unified credit is only $13,000 (equivalent to about $60,000 of property value).
These may be ameliorated by any existing estate tax treaty. European countries, Australia, and Japan enjoys these treaties, The U.S. does not maintain as many estate tax treaties as income tax treaties.
The IRC defines the following property as situated in the United States: A) Shares of stock of a U.S. corporation. B) Revocable transfers or transfers within three years of death of U.S. property or transfers with a retained interest (described in IRC Sections 2035 to 2038). C) Debt issued by a U.S. person or a governmental entity within the United States (e.g., municipal bonds).
Real estate in the United States is considered U.S. property when it is physical personal property such as works of art, furniture, cars, and currency. Debt, however is ignored if it is recourse debt, but gross value is included, not just equity. U.S.-situs property is also a US property if it is a beneficial interest in a trust holding. Life insurance is NOT included as U.S.-situs property.
The estate tax returns must disclose all of the NRA’s worldwide assets, in order to determine the ratio that the U.S. assets bear to non-U.S. assets. The gross estate is reduced by various deductions relating to the U.S.-situs property. This ratio determines the percentage of allowable deductions that may be claimed against the gross estate.
As mentioned earlier, when real estate is subject to a recourse mortgage, the gross value of the real estate is included, offset by the mortgage debt. This distinction is very relevant for NRAs whose debts are subject to apportionment between U.S. and non-U.S. assets and therefore not fully deductible.
Accurate planning is crucial. Let us illustrate: An NRA can own US property through a foreign corporation and this property is not included in the NRA’s estate. This means that the US Real property owned by the NRA has now effectively been converted into a non-U.S. intangible asset.
And with Real Estate that was not initially acquired through a foreign corporation, you can still avoid future taxation to the estate by paying an income tax today on the transfer of the real estate to a foreign corporation (usually treated as a sale).
An NRA donor is not subject to U.S. gift taxes on any gifts of non-U.S. situs property gifted to any person, including U.S. citizens and residents. Gift taxes are imposed on the donor. Gifts from an NRA that are in excess of $100,000 must reported on Form 3520.46 by citizens and residents, however, Gifts of U.S.-situs assets are subject to gift taxes, with the exception of intangibles, which are not taxable.
If it is physically located in the United States tangible personal property and real property is sited within the United States. The lifetime unified credit is not available to NRA donors, but NRA donors are allowed the same annual gift tax exclusion as other taxpayers. NRA’s are also subject to the same rate-schedule for gift taxes.
The primary thrust of estate tax planning for NRAs is through the use of; the following: Foreign corporations to own U.S. assets, and the gift tax exemption for intangibles to remove assets from the United States. It is very important that the corporation have a business purpose and activity, lest it be deemed a sham designed to avoid U.S. estate taxes. If the NRA dies owning shares of stock in a foreign corporation, the shares are not included in the NRA’s estate, regardless of the situs of the corporation’s assets.
Let us break this down into one easy to read and understand paragraph:
In a nutshell, shares in U.S. corporations and interests in partnerships or LLCs are intangibles and the gift of an intangible, wherever situated, by an NRA is not subject to gift tax. Consequently, real estate owned by the NRA through a U.S. corporation, partnership, or LLC may be removed from the NRA’s U.S. estate by gifting entity interests to foreign relatives.
Ownership Structures: Here we discuss the ownership architectures under which NRA’s can acquire Real Estate. The NRA’s personal goals and priorities of course dictate the type of architecture that will be used. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these alternatives. Direct investment for example, (real estate owned by the NRA) is simple and is subject to only one level of tax on the disposition. The sale is taxed at a 15 percent rate If the real estate is held for one year. There are many disadvantages to the direct investment approach, a few of which are: no privacy, no liability protection, the obligation to file U.S. income tax returns, and if the NRA dies while owning the property, his or her estate is subject to U.S. estate taxes.
When an NRA acquires the real estate through an LLC or an LP, this is considered an LLC or a limited partnership structure. This structure provides the NRA with protection of privacy and liability and allows for lifetime transfers that escape the gift tax. The obligation to file U.S. income tax returns and the possibility for U.S. estate tax on death remain, however.
Ownership of real estate through a domestic corporation, will afford privacy and liability protection, obviate the foreigner’s need to file individual U.S. income tax returns and allow lifetime gift tax-free transfers. *this refers to a C corporation, since a foreign shareholder precludes an S corporation.
Ownership of stock will not trigger a return filing obligation, unlike engaging in a U.S. trade or business which requires a U.S. tax return
Ownership of real estate through a domestic corporation has three disadvantages: Federal and state corporate income tax at the corporate level will add a second layer of tax. Dividends from the domestic corporation to its foreign shareholder will be subject to 30 percent withholding. Shares of the domestic corporation will be included in the U.S. estate of the foreign shareholder.
Furthermore, the foreign shareholder will be subject to FIRPTA, because the corporation will be treated as a USRPHC (upon the disposition of the stock in the corporation). The purchaser of the shares is then required the file a U.S. income tax return with 10 percent tax withholding. Actual ownership of the real estate may be held by the U.S. corporation directly, or by a disregarded entity owned by the corporation or through a U.S. partnership. An LLC that chooses to be taxed as a corporation can also be the corporation.
There are several advantages to foreign corporation ownership:
Liability protection- There is no U.S. income tax or filing requirement for the foreign shareholder. Shares in the foreign corporation are non-U.S. assets not included in the U.S. estate.
Dividends are not subject to U.S. withholding. There is no tax or filing requirement on the disposition of the stock. There is no gift tax on the transfer of those shares of stock.
Disadvantages of using the foreign corporation: A) just like with the domestic corporation, there will be corporate level taxes, because the foreign corporation will be deemed engaged in a U.S. trade or business. B) Possibly the largest disadvantage of ownership of U.S. real estate through a foreign corporation would be that the foreign corporation will be subject to the branch profits tax.
One of the most advantageous structure for ownership of U.S. real estate by NRAs is a hybrid foreign and U.S. corporation. It runs like this: The NRA owns a foreign corporation that in turn owns a U.S. LLC taxed as a corporation. The benefits to this type of structure is paramount to a good tax shield and offers: privacy and liability protection, escaping U.S. individual income tax filing requirements and it also avoids U.S. estate taxes. On top of that it allows for gift tax-free lifetime transfers, and avoids the branch profits tax.
The beauty and benefit of this is that the timing and the amount of this dividend is within the NRA’s control even though distributions from the U.S. subsidiary to the foreign parent are subject to the 30 percent FDAP withholding.
There are many things to consider and several structures available to limit tax liability, preserve and protect anonymity and increase profits of US Real Estate investments by foreign investors. We must keep in mind that each investment presents its own challenges and no structure is perfect. Advantages and disadvantages abound which will require a tailored analysis in light of the individual or group objectives.
Then and Now
Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.
Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!
While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.
The Business of Real Estate
Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.
The MLS (and CIE)
The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.
This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.
Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.
In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.
What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.
MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!
One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.