Citizenship and Residency

Comprehensive Guide to Buying, Owning, and Selling Foreign Real Estate

Comprehensive Guide to Buying, Owning, and Selling Foreign Real Estate

Comprehensive Guide to Buying, Owning, and Selling Foreign Real Estate

Investing in foreign real estate can be a rewarding venture, offering opportunities for diversification, potential appreciation, and income generation. Whether you are considering buying a property to live in, rent out, or use for short-term rentals like Airbnb, understanding the intricacies involved in foreign real estate investment is crucial. This comprehensive guide covers the best countries to buy in, the various uses of foreign property, tax deductions available for Americans, potential tax benefits in the country of purchase, and the pros and cons of foreign real estate ownership.

Best Countries to Buy Foreign Real Estate

  1. Portugal
  2. Why: Attractive Golden Visa program, affordable property prices, high quality of life.
  3. Best Uses: Living, long-term rental, short-term rental.
  4. Pros: Tax incentives, strong rental demand, growing tourism sector.
  5. Spain
  6. Why: Favorable climate, strong tourism industry, relatively low property prices.
  7. Best Uses: Living, vacation home, Airbnb.
  8. Pros: Golden Visa program, high rental yields, diverse culture.
  9. Costa Rica
  10. Why: Stable economy, favorable residency options, biodiversity.
  11. Best Uses: Retirement, vacation home, eco-tourism rentals.
  12. Pros: Low property taxes, growing expat community, stunning natural beauty.
  13. Mexico
  14. Why: Proximity to the U.S., affordable real estate, vibrant culture.
  15. Best Uses: Vacation home, rental property, retirement.
  16. Pros: Low cost of living, strong rental market, favorable climate.
  17. Thailand
  18. Why: Affordable property, robust tourism sector, tropical climate.
  19. Best Uses: Vacation home, Airbnb, long-term rental.
  20. Pros: Low cost of living, high rental yields, rich cultural heritage.

Uses of Foreign Real Estate

  1. Living
  2. Benefits: Experience a new culture, potentially lower cost of living, lifestyle improvement.
  3. Considerations: Legal residency requirements, healthcare access, language barriers.
  4. Long-Term Rental
  5. Benefits: Steady income stream, potential for property appreciation.
  6. Considerations: Property management, local rental laws, tenant reliability.
  7. Short-Term Rental (Airbnb)
  8. Benefits: Higher rental income, flexibility to use the property personally.
  9. Considerations: Regulatory restrictions, seasonal fluctuations, property upkeep.

Tax Deductions for Americans Owning Overseas Property

  1. Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE)
  2. Overview: Allows U.S. citizens to exclude a portion of their foreign-earned income from U.S. taxes.
  3. Limit: Up to $108,700 for the 2023 tax year.
  4. Foreign Tax Credit
  5. Overview: Credit for taxes paid to a foreign government, reducing U.S. tax liability.
  6. Benefit: Avoid double taxation on foreign income.
  7. Deductions for Rental Expenses
  8. Eligible Expenses: Mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and property management fees.
  9. Depreciation: Deduct depreciation on the property over 27.5 years.
  10. Travel Expenses
  11. Overview: Deduct travel expenses related to property management or maintenance.
  12. Limitations: Must be ordinary and necessary for managing the property.

Tax Benefits in the Country of Ownership

  1. Portugal
  2. NHR Program: Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) program offers tax benefits for foreign residents.
  3. Property Taxes: Low property taxes compared to other European countries.
  4. Spain
  5. Capital Gains Tax: Reduced rates for non-residents under certain conditions.
  6. Mortgage Interest: Deductions available for mortgage interest on rental properties.
  7. Costa Rica
  8. No Capital Gains Tax: Exemptions for capital gains on property sales.
  9. Property Tax: Low annual property taxes, typically 0.25% of the property's value.
  10. Mexico
  11. Capital Gains Exemptions: Available for primary residences after five years of ownership.
  12. Deductions: Mortgage interest and certain home improvement costs.
  13. Thailand
  14. Rental Income Tax: Flat rate of 15% for rental income.
  15. Ownership Structure: Foreigners can own condos outright, but land ownership requires specific structures (e.g., leasehold agreements).

Pros and Cons of Owning Foreign Real Estate


  1. Diversification: Spread investment risk across different markets.
  2. Potential Appreciation: Benefit from property value increases in growing markets.
  3. Income Generation: Earn rental income in local currency.
  4. Lifestyle: Access to vacation homes or retirement properties in desirable locations.
  5. Tax Benefits: Potential for various tax deductions and credits.


  1. Regulatory Risk: Changing foreign laws and regulations can impact ownership.
  2. Management Challenges: Managing a property remotely can be difficult and costly.
  3. Currency Risk: Fluctuations in currency exchange rates can affect returns.
  4. Market Knowledge: Lack of familiarity with the local real estate market.
  5. Political Instability: Potential for political or economic instability in some countries.


Investing in foreign real estate offers a range of benefits, including diversification, potential for appreciation, and income generation. However, it also comes with challenges such as regulatory risks, management difficulties, and currency fluctuations. By understanding the best countries to buy in, the various uses of foreign property, and the tax benefits available both in the U.S. and abroad, you can make informed decisions and maximize the potential of your foreign real estate investments. Always consult with local experts and tax advisors to navigate the complexities of foreign real estate ownership effectively.

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