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Before purchasing a foreign property, it's vital that buyers retain a knowledgeable attorney who can ensure they follow the local laws, minimize international taxes and take clear title. When looking to buy in a foreign market, real estate lawyers and industry experts recommend these tips to find an attorney who can complete a hassle-free purchase despite potentially tricky exchange rates.
A professional organization in the buyer's home country may provide leads to attorneys in far-flung places. Vicki Levy Eskin, an estate planner in Longwood, Fla., who frequently deals with clients' foreign property, finds partner attorneys through the American Bar Association (ABA), where she was chairperson of the National Solo & Small Firm Conference.
The ABA operates a listserv for solo practitioners and small firms, with more than 3,000 members, and many non-American lawyers are active participants. Levy Eskin can release a query, and "in about 10 minutes, somebody knows an attorney someplace: Milan, Brazil, Ecuador," she says.
— Dan Prescher, special projects editor for International Living magazine
With more than 50,000 lawyers and 200 bar associations, the International Bar Association is another good starting point when looking for help with foreign property purchases.
When navigating an international property purchase that involves sending money online, buyers in foreign markets may not know any better than to use legal counsel offered to them by the seller or agent, but finding an independent lawyer is crucial, says Dan Prescher, special projects editor for InternationalLiving.com, who has lived in Mexico and Ecuador. "People often go for the first English-speaking lawyer they find, just for the comfort factor," Prescher says, "but that person may not be the best real estate lawyer for foreigners in the area."
One way to find an independent attorney when making a foreign investment, Prescher says, is to ask for suggestions from the local title-insurance company, which should be involved in any purchase - particularly in places such as Latin America, where ownership laws can be markedly different than in the U.S. or U.K. The title-insurance company will set up an escrow account to hold the buyer's deposit.
When it's time to send and receive funds, the money can be converted into the appropriate currency using a trusted online foreign exchange service that offers email market-rate alerts to help individuals secure the latest exchange rates.
It's essential that the real estate attorney has experience working with international purchases, says Michael J. Romer, partner at Romer Debbas LLP, a New York law firm specializing in real estate purchases by foreign buyers.
Potential buyers should ask how long the attorney has practiced international real estate law, whether he or she has represented foreign buyers in the past and whether the attorney is familiar with corporate and tax planning.
In return, a good real estate attorney will ask clients about their residency status in the country where they hope to buy investment property, how they plan to use the property and whether they have children. "If the attorney isn't asking a lot of questions [and] if the clients don't feel like they've had a very thorough exam, then they're not doing their job," Levy Eskin says.
Example: 1USD = xx INR
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