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Financing for Foreign Nationals and U.S. Citizens Living Overseas

Although never a mainstream lending program for residential properties, many of the larger national banks used to offer loans for foreign nationals. Amid the major setbacks experienced by the housing and financial sectors over the past few years, most of these loan programs were discontinued. Nowadays, even U.S. citizens living abroad have a tough time securing financing and most foreign nationals eligible for any level of financing will find themselves obligated to put down at least 50% of a property's purchase price. Fortunately, lining-up financing for overseas citizens has improved dramatically and qualified foreign nationals can now secure excellent financing (up to $5 million) with down payments as low as 10%.

With interest rates hovering at all-time lows and property values stabilizing at 30% to 50% of 2006 levels, many overseas buyers see this as an opportune time to make their move into the U.S. housing market. But, in an atmosphere where mortgage financing is tough to nail down for even solidly credentialed U.S. homeowners, securing financing for foreign nationals is obviously a more complicated affair. Very few lenders are willing or able to underwrite foreign tax returns, assets, income sources, and the many other elements fundamental to the loan process. Translations along with unconventional or nonexistent credit histories add another layer of complexity to all the above.

Pledging Assets

Fortunately, we now have some excellent lending sources accustomed to underwriting foreign nationals. Even better, borrowers with significant assets may be able to pledge a portion of their accounts, thereby limiting the amount of money they need to put down. Here is an example, using pledge money on a $2 million purchase, with the borrower putting only 10% down and pledging the balance of security needed:

Purchase price is $2 million. (The standard down payment would be 50%, or $1 million down.)

The borrower wants to limit their down payment to 0% or $200,000. To limit liquidation of their accounts, they can pledge the 40% difference in the following ways:

  1. $800,000 pledged in a 1:1 ratio if they have assets deemed "non-volatile," such as checking, savings, money market, or CDs.
  2. $1,600,000 pledged in a 2:1 ratio if they have assets deemed "volatile," such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

The assets must be held in an account based in the U.S. (either by a U.S. entity or the U.S. branch of a foreign entity), but the borrower can still move monies between pledged accounts as well as continue to earn dividend income, etc.

For U.S. citizens living overseas, the process of securing mortgage financing is generally easier, though still more complicated and demanding than usual. If, as required, they have been filing U.S. federal returns, then annual income can at least be substantiated per regular underwriting standards. But there are often other obstacles to contend with. Income, employment, and asset verifications are generally more elusive. Housing payments are often covered, in part, by the employer, and must also be substantiated to the underwriter's satisfaction. Certified translations are often required for these items and much more. U.S. citizens who've lived overseas for extended periods sometimes lack credit ratings and need to build a credit history, which can take months. (Lenders are more forgiving of foreign nationals who lack credit ratings.) On a positive note, overseas citizens can usually get by with just a 20% down payment and they can also benefit from pledged assets. 

The key to working through the mortgage process for both overseas citizens and foreign nationals is to begin the process early. Certain underwriting requirements -such as building a credit rating -can require months of work. It is also essential to find the right lender and to maintain a coordinated link with the underwriting team to keep the loan process smooth and on track until the purchase has funded.


#1 By Hilary at 7/18/2019 3:57 AM

Excellent information-thank you!

#2 By Robert Coker at 7/18/2019 3:57 AM

I am an American citizen living in Brazil and am looking for a loan to purchase a house in Texas or Kansas. I will rent this house for income. Do you know of any lenders to help me. I do not have any income that is reportable to the IRS. I do file a 0 return. I work for a high school here in the Texas Tech U. program but get paid by the high school.


#3 By steve fazekas at 7/18/2019 3:57 AM

I'm an American living in France with a perfect credit rating. I have guaranteed income and 140,000 euros equity in my house here. I have No outstanding debts. Where can I find a mortgage for a beach front appartement I'm trying to buy in France? I want to pay the mortgage in dollars which is the currency of my retirement. Please e-mail me.

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