NewsUS Real EstateMay 20, 2024

A Complete Guide on Getting a Mortgage Loan and Buying a House as an H1B Visa Holder

Congratulations — you finally got your work visa approved or won the H1B visa lottery and can start thinking about buying a house on H1B visa.

Now what?

Well, it’s time to prepare yourself for your stay in America. And the most important part of that preparation is finding a place to live.

As you’re now one of over 600,000 H1B visa holders in the US, you’re unlikely to have any issues paying rent as a tenant. However, if you’re more ambitious about your life in America, why not consider buying yourself a home? 

The good news is that even H1B visa holders can take out a mortgage loan and buy a house in the US. Doing so will be slightly trickier than if you were a US citizen, though.

In this article, we will teach you everything you need to know about buying a home in the US as an H1B visa holder. We’ll cover everything from the benefits of owning a home over renting to securing financing through a mortgage loan.

But first, let’s start by answering some of the most pressing questions you may have as a foreigner buying a home in America…

Can You Buy a Home in the US as an H1B Visa Holder?

Yes, even temporary US residents like H1B visa holders can buy property in the US in the same way as American citizens. In fact, between April 2022 and March 2023, more than $53,3 billion was spent on US real estate by foreign nationals. Among these home buyers are foreigners living and working in the US and nonresident investors.

The good news is that H1B visa holders even have an easier time buying a home in the US than other non-residents. And there are several reasons for that:

  • You already have permission to reside on US soil;
  • It’s easier to find the right property when you already live in America;
  • You’re already decently familiar with US tax laws;
  • You have an easier time building credit score and securing a mortgage;

Overall, the entire process isn’t all that different from the one US citizens go through. So, even if you need help, you won’t have trouble finding a real estate professional to assist you.

Can I Also Buy Land With an H1B Visa?

Even if you don’t want to purchase a home but would rather build one from scratch, you can still do that. In some parts of the USA, you can still find affordable land, and even foreign nationals and H1B visa holders can buy it. However, you may not be able to secure a mortgage loan if you want to buy land. So, if that is your goal, you’ll likely need to pay in cash.

how to decide to rent or buy

Buying vs. Renting: How to Decide?

Before you decide to take the leap and buy a house on an H1B visa, you should consider whether buying one will even pay off.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself first:

  • How high are property prices in your state?
  • How long do you wish to remain in the US?
  • Do you think you have a good chance to get your H1B visa renewed?
  • How long will you need to wait before being able to sell your home for profit from appreciation?
  • What are you going to do with your property if your visa doesn’t get extended?

We can’t tell you whether it’s the right time to buy a home for you yet, as each individual’s circumstances are different. But we can showcase the positives and negatives of owning a home over renting to help you decide.

Why You Should Consider Buying a House on H1B Visa

Thousands of H1B visa holders buy homes in the US each year for reasons beyond personal satisfaction and flexibility. Here are four of the most tangible ones: 

1. Buying Is Cheaper Than Renting (In the Right City)

Yes. Generally, buying is indeed cheaper than renting in the long run. However, that greatly depends on where you buy.

For instance, some states that saw a huge spike in interest rates like California and New York have incredibly high home prices that it would take a long time to break even on your investment. However, smaller states like Wisconsin, for instance, have significantly lower home prices that you could theoretically profit from buying a home within a few years (thanks to property appreciation). 

Besides the pure price-to-rent ratio, several other factors go in favor of buying a property over renting one:

  • You have unlimited personalization options when owning a home;
  • Building equity through property appreciation;
  • Immunity to market risks (increases in rent price);
  • And more…

So if you have enough saved for a downpayment, you will be better off buying a home as an H1B visa holder than renting one. That is especially true if you’re a first-time homebuyer since you may qualify for an FHA loan where the downpayment can be as little as 3.5%! 

Buying a home is something we advise all our clients, as it’s much better for your finances in the long run than living as a tenant. Just make sure to do thorough market research to ensure you find the right property for the right price.

2. Rent Payments Are More Volatile Than Mortage Payments

The most notable advantage of taking out a mortgage loan for a home is that most mortgage payments are fixed throughout their lifespan. The same couldn’t be said for rents.

Rent sizes are subject to market fluctuations, and the real estate market has been quite unstable throughout 2023. So what was once an affordable rent may rise significantly in just a few months.

This uncertainty makes renting much more volatile and unpredictable than simply getting a mortgage and buying an entire property. And if your monthly budget has little to no wiggle room, it’s much safer to become a homeowner than to rent (as long as you look for a fixed-rate mortgage loan).

3. H1B Visa Home Owners Enjoy Various Tax Benefits

Even temporary US residents receive various tax benefits when becoming homeowners. These come in the form of various breaks or deductions. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Property Tax Reduction — H1B visa holders can save thousands in tax liability by claiming this deduction on both federal and state levels.
  • Tax Benefits for Selling Your Home on an H1B Visa — If you spend at least two years living in your home, you won’t be taxed for the first $250,000 of profit when selling your home.
  • Mortgage Interest Deduction — H1B visa holders can get a deduction for mortgage interest payments during a financial year (up to $750,000). 
  • Private Mortgage Insurance Deduction — This deduction applies to the fee that borrowers who put down less than 20% needed for a mortgage have to pay their lenders.

4. Buying a Home Will Help You Build Generational Wealth

Home prices in the US have grown by around 50% in just the last five years. And that trend is only going to continue due to the excess demand for homes and lack of supply in the market.

Besides offering the opportunity to earn money over the long run due to property appreciation, homes have historically been one of the safest assets for investors and individuals alike, with Americans above the age of 62 owning over $9.2 trillion in home equity. Owning a home also reduces your everyday expenses significantly while leaving something tangible for future generations.

Whether you want to ensure your children have something to fall back on in the future or are just looking for a worthy investment, you won’t go wrong with real estate.

The Downsides of Buying a Home as an H1B Visa Holder

Despite all the benefits of owning a home as an H1B visa holder, there are a few downsides as well. One of the most notable ones is that your property will be directly tied to your job.

As an H1B visa holder, you are allowed to live in America as long as you are sponsored by a US company. If you lose your job, you won’t be able to extend your visa.

You will not lose your property, though. But if you are forced to return home, you may find yourself needing the money that you spent buying a home in the US.

Another reason you should think about buying a home as an H1B visa holder is that foreigners have a few tax disadvantages if they decide to sell it within two years. Namely, if circumstances force you to sell your property in less than two years, you will likely be subject to higher capital gains tax of up to 30% (although there are some ways to avoid it).

That makes buying a home in the US risky for H1B visa holders in case you don’t get your visa extended. However, if you are confident you won’t face such issues, then this disadvantage doesn’t apply to you.

How to Buy a House on an H1B Visa in 5 Steps

If you’ve carefully weighed your options and decided to go through with buying a home in America, here’s how you can do it in five simple steps:

1. Secure Financing

Before you even start looking for a property, you’ll need to determine your budget. The amount you have at your disposal will influence where you look, as home prices throughout the US (and even within city neighborhoods) can vary greatly.

Your best bet will be to buy your home in cash. That way, you will own the property from the get-go and have nothing to pay off to the state. However, that’s only realistic if you already have significant capital. 

If you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars set aside to buy a home, you can still secure a mortgage loan, even as an H1B visa holder. Whether you’re from the UK, China, India, or any other country, you only need to cover the downpayment when taking out a loan. Downpayments with most lenders usually amount to 20%–30% of the property’s total price. That makes buying a home as a nonresident much more accessible.

The best part is that you don’t need a long credit history to secure a mortgage loan as an H1B visa holder. Although having one is an undeniable plus, some lenders will work even with individuals with shorter credit histories (more on your mortgage options a bit later). 

2. Find the Right City and Neighborhood

After securing funding, the next step will be to find the right city or neighborhood to buy a home. Depending on how well you do your homework, you may even be able to buy a home for under $300,000.

As an H1B visa holder, you will likely be tied down to a specific state or city due to your job, as having stable employment is a prerequisite to keeping your visa. But if you’re lucky, your company may allow remote work. If that is the case, you don’t need to live in an expensive city and can move to a more affordable area within that state.

However, if you have no remote work options, there are still things you can look for to minimize your costs even in the pricier places in the US. 

Firstly, you should research the most affordable neighborhoods in your city. The easiest way to do that is to look for areas with affordable rental properties. These are often directly related to property prices.

If the costs are still too high, try looking further into the suburbs. Suburban homes are generally more affordable than those inside the city (in most places in America). And even though your transportation expenses will be higher, the difference in home price will make up for it several times over.

Lastly, you can even look for a home in a neighboring town. Depending on how well-connected it is to the city you work in, this can save you a lot of money when buying property. One of the best examples of this tactic is buying a home in New Jersey while working in New York. There, homes are up to 40% cheaper than in the Big Apple.

3. Go Deal Hunting

Once you’ve narrowed down your location to a few neighborhoods, it’s time to go deal hunting. This part is one of the most difficult ones but can make a huge difference in cost if you do it right. Here are a few tips to help you find the best deal in your chosen area: 

  • Talk to Local Real Estate Agents — Local real estate agents know the ins and outs of the housing market in your desired area. They will also often be the first to know when a house goes on sale, so consulting with one is crucial to finding the best deal.
  • Browse Online Facebook Groups — Many towns have Facebook communities where people put properties on sale when they want to avoid mediators like real estate agents. Offers in these groups are often better than on the open market.
  • Search Through Local Zillow Listings — Real estate giants like Zillow have millions of properties listed all across the US. This website can be an excellent way to get insight into the local real estate market (and maybe even find a fantastic deal).
  • Ask Around the Neighborhood You Want to Move To — You’d be surprised how effective a door-to-door approach can be. If you are set on moving to a specific neighborhood, introducing yourself around the neighborhood and inquiring about any property sales is a great way to give a good first impression in the community. And most locals will be happy to help you.

4. Conduct Property Inspection

When you find a property you like, don’t jump the gun! Sellers will always try to paint the home in the best light. So you should never take their word for it.

Instead, hire a professional property inspector to do a deep check of the property before buying. Their role is to ensure the home is in good condition and that you don’t get surprised by any major technical or structural flaws once you’ve already signed on the dotted line.

5. Find a Professional to Help You Sort Out the Paperwork

The final step before becoming a first-time homeowner is to handle all the necessary paperwork. Due to the complexity of US laws and the fact that you likely know less about the US legal system than a typical American, we advise you to hire professional legal help.

Having a certified lawyer handle your paperwork will let you sleep soundly at night knowing that the entire process went without a hitch and is well worth the extra fee.

If you need assistance with any of these steps in the process of buying your first home in America, our team at Nonresident Investor can help. At Nonresident Investor, we guide foreigners looking to buy a home in the US through every step of the process — from securing funding and deal hunting to handling the legal paperwork. Book a free 15-minute discovery call with our CEO, Luka Malkovich, to learn how our team can help nonresidents like you find your dream home.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home With an H1B Visa

Buying a home as an H1B visa holder is a long and stressful process, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. That’s why you’re likely to make a few mistakes along the way. Here are the most common mistakes you should avoid at all costs:

  • Not Hiring a Property Inspector — Buying a home only to later find out it has some foundational or structural flaws you weren’t aware of can cost you a lot of extra money. The same applies for any potential legal or tax problems. Paying a small property inspection fee is always a much better option than having to invest thousands of dollars to fix any issues.
  • Buying Outside of Your Budget — This point is particularly important if you’re buying with a mortgage loan. Even if you can afford a pricier home with your loan, getting too high of a mortgage may result in a too-high monthly repayment fee. Never forget your monthly budget when choosing the size of your loan. 
  • Not Doing Your Research — Knowing the realistic value of properties on a particular market is crucial to avoid getting overcharged for a home. On top of that, knowing the neighborhood you’re moving into beforehand is crucial to making an informed decision. You don’t want to regret your purchase after it’s too late!
  • Buying a Home Without Professional Help — By handling the entire process alone you risk making a mistake that can cost you greatly down the line. As a foreign national, you are unfamiliar with US laws and regulations, so it’s much safer to let professionals like the NRI team guide you through the entire process.

getting a mortgage loan when buying a house on h1b visa in usa

Can I Get a Mortgage Loan With an H1B Visa?

If you need help to finance your first home as a foreigner in America, we have some good news — even H1B visa holders can get a US mortgage loan. However, you will have a harder time securing one than a US citizen and your downpayment may be slightly higher.

Although most H1B visa mortgage applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, there are a few things you’ll need to provide every single time.

What You’ll Need to Apply for a Mortage Loan

Here are the things all H1B visa holders will need to have before applying for a mortgage loan:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) if you live in the US;
  • A valid work visa and a letter of recommendation from a US employer;
  • 2 years of US credit history for most mortgage options (though some lenders are willing to give you a loan even without any credit score);
  • High credit score (ideally over 670) for loans requiring it;
  • US-sourced income that’s expected to continue for at least three more years;
  • Some loans may also require an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that you can get from the USCIS.

Best Mortgage Options for H1B Visa Holders

Whether you need a loan for your first home or as a foreign real estate investor, you have several mortgage options based on your residency status and credit score. Here are four of the most versatile ones:

1. Conventional Mortgages

Applying for a conventional mortgage as an H1B visa holder will require a high credit score, as these mortgages aren’t typically oriented toward nonresidents. If you do meet the requirements for one, these mortgages require a reasonable downpayment and documentation.

If you apply for a conventional mortgage, the most popular are conforming mortgages. They are so widespread because they fulfill the requirements to be sold to the market giants Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. That gives you additional security regardless of whether you’re a Canadian citizen looking for a US loan or from overseas.

Requirements:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) and H1B Visa Documents;
  • A credit score of 620 or higher;
  • 3%–20% downpayment;
  • W-2 forms, income tax returns, and recent pay stubs;
  • A debt-to-income ratio under 50%.

2. Foreign National Mortgages

The best mortgage options for H1B visa holders are undoubtedly foreign national mortgages. The reason is that these are specialized mortgages handed out to nonresidents and don’t need you to spend years building your US credit score — you can simply provide a credit score report from your home country.

One downside of these mortgages is that they require higher downpayments due to greater risk for the lenders. Still, foreign national mortgages are by far your best option if you’re in a hurry to buy a home in the US.

Requirements:

  • Valid visa;
  • Downpayment of 20%–25% of property purchase value;
  • Credit score report from your home country.

3. FHA Loan

FHA loans are government-backed loans awarded to first-time homebuyers that require lower credit score thresholds. If you have some credit score and want to buy your first property even as a nonresident, an FHA loan is a suitable financing option.

Requirements:

  • Making the property your primary residence (Borrower’s Principal Residence);
  • Social Security Number (SSN), unless employed by the World Bank, a foreign embassy, or an equivalent employer;
  • A credit score of 580 or higher;
  • An Employment Authorization Document, as issued by the USCIS;
  • Minimum downpayment of 3.5%;
  • A debt-to-income ratio of under 43%.

4. DSCR Loan (For Investors)

If you’re an investor and want to buy real estate for long-term gains, a DSCR loan is for you. These loans are handed out based on the perceived ability of your property to generate positive cash flow, which is illustrated through the property’s DSCR score (you can calculate your DSCR score with this DSCR calculator). 

Most lenders require your DSCR ratio to be above 1 to approve this loan and will require a higher downpayment than most other financing options. However, DSCR loans are the easiest way for foreign real estate investors to get started on the US market, with or without an H1B visa.

Requirements:

  • DSCR ratio of 1 or higher;
  • Cashflow documentation of your property’s income versus expenses;
  • 20%–25% downpayment;
  • Some lenders ask for a credit score of 620 or higher.

What Should You Do If You Lose Your H1B Visa?

If you’re worried you will lose your property if you fail to extend your H1B visa, don’t be — even if you return to your home country, you will still own the home you purchased. However, you will need to cover any monthly costs of being a homeowner in the US, including covering all the bills, paying yearly taxes, and paying off your mortgage loan (if you took one).

Depending on your financial situation upon leaving the US, these expenses may prove too high. If they are, you’d be best off selling your home outright. You can still do that even from overseas by working with a US real estate agent or agency that can handle the brunt of the work. And if you’re lucky, you may even be eligible for tax exemption if you had to sell your home due to losing your H1B visa.

Alternatively, you can rent your US home or turn it into an Airbnb property and have it serve as a long-term investment. Either way, even if the worst comes to worst, you have options.

Need Help Buying a Home in the US as a Foreign National?

If you decide to buy a home in the US as an H1B visa holder and need help at every step of the buying process, our team at Nonresident Investor would love to help you.

At NRI, we help foreign nationals and US newcomers at every step of the way, including:

  • Securing a mortgage loan even without any credit score
  • Scouting and finding the best deal
  • Handling the legal paperwork and taxes
  • And more…

Our network of real estate agents across all 50 states will ensure you find your dream home for the most affordable price in no time.

Our CEO, Luka Malkovich, is a nonresident investor who built a successful real estate business in America and is now helping hundreds of US newcomers become proud homeowners on American soil. Luka is eager to share his knowledge and experience with you to make your American Dream come true.

Come jump on a free 15-minute discovery call with Luka and tell him more about your needs.

 

Luka
Founder & CEO
Luka Malkovich is a serial entrepreneur with years of experience in international real estate investing. As the CEO of Nonresident Investor, Luka’s mission is to educate foreign nationals about the US real estate market and help them secure funding and buy property in America. That’s why he’s using his expertise to turn the NRI blog into a knowledge hub for anyone interested in learning about US real estate. This article was written by a professional content writer in conjunction with Luka Malkovich. Luka has thoroughly reviewed this article and has given his final approval before publishing.

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