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Finding a home in the U.S.

Whether you buy or rent, the overview below will help you to find a home in the U.S.

Once you’ve gained all the right visas and it’s time to move to your fantastic new location, you’ll suddenly realise how vast the U.S. actually is. If you’re working in technology or software development, you may find yourself in any state across the country. Where you’ll end up depends on your specialisation. Telecoms giant Verizon is based in New Jersey, but Microsoft HQ is in Redmond in Washington State.

Buying property in the U.S.

Expats are allowed to buy property the U.S. and apply for a mortgage. Be sure to take along as much documentation as possible when making this application. Since the 2008 financial crash, lending conditions have been tightened. The lender must be convinced that the borrower can repay their mortgage. Before you even start the home-buying process, you’ll need an Individual Taxpayer reference number if you don’t have a social security number. Having a good credit score is vital if you are borrowing money to buy the property. You’ll also have to be prepared to show your tax returns as proof of your income.

Your realtor will become your new best friend, arranging viewings of the property you wish to buy. Make sure they belong to the Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS) or the National Association of Realtors (NAR), as these professionals will have experience with dealing with overseas buyers and those wishing to rent in the American market.

Renting property in the U.S.

Most Americans rent rather than own their own homes. If you find a room in an apartment that is rent controlled, you’re in luck. Rent increases are restricted, making homes more affordable, and you can’t be evicted at a moment’s notice. Some states have rent controls in place. These include:

  • California
  • Washington
  • New Jersey
  • New York

The whole process varies from state to state. Make sure you read the small print of any contract as 24 states don’t have any limits on security deposits whereas other states do have deposit limits in place. Never sign a lease without viewing the property (you shouldn’t be charged a fee to view the property). It’s a good rule of thumb not to wire money. If something goes horribly wrong, the wired funds will be treated as cash and you won’t be able to get them back.

There are two methods of renting in the U.S.. A rental agreement is for a very short period — 30 days is the general rule — though this can be extended, and the landlord can either prolong or end the contract after a month’s notice.

A lease is a more secure way of renting your home, as it will be written for a fixed term and the terms and conditions of your occupancy will be clearly stated. You’ll be expected to pay a month’s rent as a security deposit as well as a month’s rent in advance. In some states you may have to pay the realtor as well as the landlord. Always check the inventory before you move in. It’s also a good idea to take photographs of every room in the property so that there aren’t any problems when the lease has expired. You can never ask too many questions when it comes to renting or leasing your future home.

Apart from looking online for a property, a more secure way of finding a property is through an accredited agent.

If you are yet to decide where to start your new life in the U.S., check out our guide to the best cities for expats in the U.S.

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