Can You Buy or Sell a House While You Are Out of the Country?


Compared to other brokerages, Teles Properties does a lot of "international" business so I am often asked if you can buy or sell a house while you are out of the country. The answer, as in most things Real Estate is "is depends".

I'm going through two transactions currently where my clients are abroad, at least for the time being.

Fortunately electronic signing programs such as Docusign make a lot of the transactions much more manageable and most of the paperwork including disclosures and some of the escrow documents can be handled in this manner. I've had clients sign on smart phones, tablets, and laptops in remote parts of Southeast Asia as well all over Europe and Africa.

Fortunately, for my buyer clients, who are somewhere in the South Pacific as I write this, they have reasonable internet access, cell phone connections, and are able to text. And everyone knows we can't live without texting.

One of the challenges for out of country buyers can be getting their earnest money deposit (EMD) to the escrow company. Here's why.

Escrow companies do not seem to accept online payments or other forms of EMD and many (but not all banks) require the presence of the account holder to initiate a wire transfer. (Some banks apparently do allow for this to happen over the phone.) In the case of my clients, they had a cashier's check sent to escrow directly from the bank and were able to do that over the phone. EMD arrived one business day late but that was more a function of us trying to figure out how to get this done than anything else. Another possible alternative we looked into was Western Union (remember them). Problem with that option is that a) you have to have the amount you are wiring available in local currency, and b) you have to wire to a person, not just "escrow".

To pull this together for my clients I am handling all the home inspections on their behalf.

Fortunately for this transaction, the buyer's will be back in the US well before the sale is supposed to close. If they were not, we would have a repetition of the funds transfer problem. Additionally, they would have to find a US Consulate with hopefully a notary to notarize their loan documents assuming they are getting a loan. A variation on this is if Power of Attorney is given to someone to sign for them.

On the sell side of the equation, it is somewhat easier. Listing agreements, escrow paperwork, etc can mostly be handled electronically. The challenge becomes the Grant Deed which must be notarized for recording. As above, there are workarounds whether at a consulate or with a POA.

As for your proceeds after the sale, I'm not sure most escrow companies would want to get involved in exchange rate issues so most likely your funds will be wired to an account at a US bank and then you can have the money sent over seas.

So, if I am your agent, I can make an overseas transaction happen for you, depending....