Moving to US

Moving to US

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thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Sunday 13th January 2019
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Hi all, I’m going to be moving to Houston over the summer and would appreciate some pointers on the below if anyone has any experience.

I’d like to get a mortgage straight away rather than rent, I appreciate I have no credit history but the company I am going to work for use a third party to assist with this, has anyone heard of this before?

The likelihood is that our kids will go in to public school rather than private, the oldest is 11, but the plan is to stay until they have all finished school so they won’t be switching between US and UK curriculum. Has anyone had any experience doing this? How did the kids find the switch? Does anyone have any experience of the schools in Houston in particular?

I’m sure I will have a few more questions as the move gets closer but they are the main two points currently.

Matt Harper

5,960 posts

162 months

Sunday 13th January 2019
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Is the third party that assists with employee mortgages a bank?

When I moved here in 2001, my employer provided my mortgage - a not very attractive 15 year fix at 7%. It got me on the US property ladder, but I extracted myself from it at the earliest opportunity. It took me about 14 months to accumulate a credit profile that a conventional mortgage provider was comfortable with. My visa (L-1A) was also a factor for the lender.

My main motivation to ditch the employer-provided mortgage was to sever that 'hold' that they had on me, which I was somewhat uncomfortable with.

My daughter had left school by the time we moved here, so that wasn't a concern for us - but my understanding is that the quality of public school education varies considerably from state to state. Where I live (FL) it is considered to be very sub-standard.

You may want to explore www.britishexpats.com - there are a lot of TX residents on the US forum of that site, who may be able to share personal experience.

h0b0

5,263 posts

157 months

Monday 14th January 2019
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Schools vary dramatically from post code to post code. I’m in NJ and experience here tells me schools are the most important factor when buying a house. I just moved 6 miles and doubled my house price for a house that is equal, just for the schools.

Also, check tax rates. Even after the move I dropped my property taxes by a third. NJ is particularly bad for this though. Houston may be better but worth checking.

Check flood areas in Houston. After the last hurricane there were entire neighborhoods destroyed and one house on high land that survived. This hopefully will not be an issue but I was glad in Hoboken NJ that my car was parked on a high spot as every other car as submerged.

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Monday 14th January 2019
quotequote all
Matt Harper said:
Is the third party that assists with employee mortgages a bank?
Yes it is.

Matt Harper said:
When I moved here in 2001, my employer provided my mortgage - a not very attractive 15 year fix at 7%. It got me on the US property ladder, but I extracted myself from it at the earliest opportunity. It took me about 14 months to accumulate a credit profile that a conventional mortgage provider was comfortable with. My visa (L-1A) was also a factor for the lender.
I think i would look to do the same, i'm unsure of rates at the moment but my new company covers closing fee's etc. In what way was the visa a factor? do you mean with regards to how long you would be staying in the US?

Matt Harper said:
You may want to explore www.britishexpats.com - there are a lot of TX residents on the US forum of that site, who may be able to share personal experience.
Great, thanks for that, i will take a look.

h0b0 said:
Schools vary dramatically from post code to post code. I’m in NJ and experience here tells me schools are the most important factor when buying a house. I just moved 6 miles and doubled my house price for a house that is equal, just for the schools.
Although we have only recently begun looking at houses i think this is the route we will take, schooling will be our priority.

h0b0 said:
Also, check tax rates. Even after the move I dropped my property taxes by a third. NJ is particularly bad for this though. Houston may be better but worth checking.
I've had a look at these in various areas, there is quite a swing.
h0b0 said:
Check flood areas in Houston. After the last hurricane there were entire neighborhoods destroyed and one house on high land that survived. This hopefully will not be an issue but I was glad in Hoboken NJ that my car was parked on a high spot as every other car as submerged.
I've tried to look in to this but it's not too straightforward. There are a few houses for sale that are not in a flood area but that were damaged by reservoir banks breaking during Harvey. I'm not sure how they work the areas out but that doesn't seem right to me.

Thanks again guys.

Matt Harper

5,960 posts

162 months

Monday 14th January 2019
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thainy77 said:
In what way was the visa a factor? do you mean with regards to how long you would be staying in the US?
When I first started canvassing lenders with a view to refinancing my employer-provide mortgage, some were unwilling to make an offer because I was on a 'temporary' visa. L-1A and B and H-1B visas are temporary and will eventually expire.

I was also subject to an interest rate penalty, due to my visa status - and was required to pay for insurance, given the loan-to-value ratio at that time. Then I had to factor lack of homestead exemption, due to my visa status too.

Needless to say, all this evaporated when I became a legal permanent resident (and subsequently a USC).

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Tuesday 15th January 2019
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Matt Harper said:
When I first started canvassing lenders with a view to refinancing my employer-provide mortgage, some were unwilling to make an offer because I was on a 'temporary' visa. L-1A and B and H-1B visas are temporary and will eventually expire.

I was also subject to an interest rate penalty, due to my visa status - and was required to pay for insurance, given the loan-to-value ratio at that time. Then I had to factor lack of homestead exemption, due to my visa status too.

Needless to say, all this evaporated when I became a legal permanent resident (and subsequently a USC).
That's understandable, can you remember what sort of percentage the penalty was? I assume the time frame for becoming a resident varies for each individual?

timmybob

455 posts

233 months

Tuesday 15th January 2019
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I moved in 2009 and was able to get a mortgage without the assistance of my company (so didn't have the penalties Matt describes). Before I moved, I had opened an account with Wells Fargo through their international arm in London, and then when I moved I was able to obtain my mortgage through them. I did have a reasonably sized deposit (I can't remember exactly how much but around 20%) which may have helped.
I am not sure if such a path still exists but it might be worth exploring.

Matt Harper

5,960 posts

162 months

Tuesday 15th January 2019
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thainy77 said:
That's understandable, can you remember what sort of percentage the penalty was? I assume the time frame for becoming a resident varies for each individual?
It was a point and a half - the lender was Countrywide - one of the main instigators of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in 2008.

Route to permanence is very dependent on personal circumstances - and visa status - and a whole bunch of other variables, in some cases.

I moved to the US in 2001, became an LPR in 2008 and a USC in 2016. My journey was somewhat convoluted.

kilty2

218 posts

132 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
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@Matt Harper

I keep hearing the "homestead exemption" expression mentioned. Upon research this seems to be more of a southern thing - Illinois (and Chicagoland) have very little to offer. Property taxes here are ruinous, my house which is relatively huge to me has an exemption of $4k (@10%), but I see huge amounts for properties in Florida?

To be fair, Chicagoland (specifically Naperville, is a lot cheaper than living in a London suburb from a purchase point of view) but property taxes are a killer. About to retire so taking a closer look - "I don't care about no stinking schools". LOL


@thainy77

You are limited by your job posting to the area where you live, my first mortgage was at a 8.25% - bashed done to 4.625% over 3 years and now payed off bounce. I have 2 expats living in my subdivision (estate) both of them were here renting on short term transfers and now both are LPR's.

My cousin's wife was high up in IT for BP and transferred here for 3 years back in 2003 (loved it - but moved back to the UK in 2006).


Lot's of people love it, some still 'hanker after the old life', make sure you don't financially screw yourself. Life in the "The States" might seem appealing but is not the 'be all end all''.




thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
quotequote all
timmybob said:
I moved in 2009 and was able to get a mortgage without the assistance of my company (so didn't have the penalties Matt describes). Before I moved, I had opened an account with Wells Fargo through their international arm in London, and then when I moved I was able to obtain my mortgage through them. I did have a reasonably sized deposit (I can't remember exactly how much but around 20%) which may have helped.
I am not sure if such a path still exists but it might be worth exploring.
This is very interesting, i will take a look at this thanks, i also have around a 20% deposit for the house prices i am looking at.

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
quotequote all
Matt Harper said:
It was a point and a half - the lender was Countrywide - one of the main instigators of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown in 2008.

Route to permanence is very dependent on personal circumstances - and visa status - and a whole bunch of other variables, in some cases.

I moved to the US in 2001, became an LPR in 2008 and a USC in 2016. My journey was somewhat convoluted.
A point and a half isn't too bad, if it is still that, with the current rates, i could suck that up until i have a good credit history.

Understood on the residency side, i thought that would be the case although 15 years to become a citizen seems fairly long.

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
quotequote all
kilty2 said:
@thainy77

You are limited by your job posting to the area where you live, my first mortgage was at a 8.25% - bashed done to 4.625% over 3 years and now payed off bounce. I have 2 expats living in my subdivision (estate) both of them were here renting on short term transfers and now both are LPR's.

My cousin's wife was high up in IT for BP and transferred here for 3 years back in 2003 (loved it - but moved back to the UK in 2006).


Lot's of people love it, some still 'hanker after the old life', make sure you don't financially screw yourself. Life in the "The States" might seem appealing but is not the 'be all end all''.
How long ago was that first mortgage at 8.25%? Was that with a penalty as you had no credit history etc.?

I have been an expat for a while, i currently live in Athens, so am used to the lifestyle. I have also spent a lot of time in Houston, approximately three months last year alone so it shouldn't be too much of a culture shock. And Houston kind of is the "be all and end all" in my industry hehe.

kilty2

218 posts

132 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
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We bought in 2000 - interest rates were a lot higher then. Also we only had @12% deposit - so we were saddled with mortgage insurance until we has 20% equity.

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
quotequote all
kilty2 said:
We bought in 2000 - interest rates were a lot higher then. Also we only had @12% deposit - so we were saddled with mortgage insurance until we has 20% equity.
That makes more sense, were you also able to get a mortgage as soon as you arrived?

Zeek

876 posts

165 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
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thainy77 said:
Understood on the residency side, i thought that would be the case although 15 years to become a citizen seems fairly long.
I became an LPR 14 months after arriving on an L1A. You need a willing and able employer for the green card process, and it can be a good strategy to agree that as part of the move. It's not really always in their interest to do it, because it means you can leave them once you have it! Citizenship (if you want it) can be applied for 5 years after getting your green card.

Personally, regardless of cost, I wouldn't have taken on a mortgage while on an L1. Depending on the visa, if your employment ends for any reason, your visa is going to expire and you'll have a pretty short window to wind everything up and get out.

thainy77

Original Poster:

3,280 posts

159 months

Wednesday 16th January 2019
quotequote all
Zeek said:
I became an LPR 14 months after arriving on an L1A. You need a willing and able employer for the green card process, and it can be a good strategy to agree that as part of the move. It's not really always in their interest to do it, because it means you can leave them once you have it! Citizenship (if you want it) can be applied for 5 years after getting your green card.

Personally, regardless of cost, I wouldn't have taken on a mortgage while on an L1. Depending on the visa, if your employment ends for any reason, your visa is going to expire and you'll have a pretty short window to wind everything up and get out.
I think they are open to the idea of green cards but i’ll start the discussion, I actually have a meeting with HR tomorrow.

I guess there is a slight risk involved but I’m fairly comfortable the role is secure, there is no chance of the company going down the pan and I’m not completely incompetent at my job hehe.

kilty2

218 posts

132 months

Thursday 17th January 2019
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thainy77 said:
kilty2 said:
We bought in 2000 - interest rates were a lot higher then. Also we only had @12% deposit - so we were saddled with mortgage insurance until we has 20% equity.
That makes more sense, were you also able to get a mortgage as soon as you arrived?
I typed up a long answer to your question but the short answer is that I ended up moving here in 1998 and married an American (who had no property ownership history – only revolving credit). I took out a car loan (in my name only to start my credit history). Next step was a credit card a few months later ($2k limit iirc) and I used this for pretty much everything, but ensured the balance was cleared each month.

We weren’t in a position to buy immediately – not sure where (within the local area) and we didn’t have a sufficient down payment (that was part of the longer story). In any case 2000 was a good time to earn lots of money and we got a down payment together.

Ironically since our mortgage got paid off, our credit score took a ‘ding’ – Bugs me, because of my Scottish/Presbyterian don’t buy stuff on the never/never upbringing (I.e. Don’t overstretch yourself).
Good luck in your endeavors, I may well become a citizen this year.

The Moose

20,573 posts

170 months

Saturday 19th January 2019
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thainy77 said:
Zeek said:
I became an LPR 14 months after arriving on an L1A. You need a willing and able employer for the green card process, and it can be a good strategy to agree that as part of the move. It's not really always in their interest to do it, because it means you can leave them once you have it! Citizenship (if you want it) can be applied for 5 years after getting your green card.

Personally, regardless of cost, I wouldn't have taken on a mortgage while on an L1. Depending on the visa, if your employment ends for any reason, your visa is going to expire and you'll have a pretty short window to wind everything up and get out.
I think they are open to the idea of green cards but i’ll start the discussion, I actually have a meeting with HR tomorrow.

I guess there is a slight risk involved but I’m fairly comfortable the role is secure, there is no chance of the company going down the pan and I’m not completely incompetent at my job hehe.
My understanding is that if you don’t push for them to process your green card application, the employer can and sometimes do use it as a stick to beat you with, as opposed to treating you as a ‘normal’ employee.

Matt Harper

5,960 posts

162 months

Saturday 19th January 2019
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The Moose said:
My understanding is that if you don’t push for them to process your green card application, the employer can and sometimes do use it as a stick to beat you with, as opposed to treating you as a ‘normal’ employee.
In my case, my employer assured me that they would petition LPR for me - then reneged on that promise when they realized that I could then leave their employ and remain in the country. Using a work visa as a leash is more common than most visa beneficiaries realize. Those situations require some creativity to extricate from. Some critics said I should have got it in writing, but my employer was such a spiteful dirt-bag, that would have made zero difference.

The Moose

20,573 posts

170 months

Sunday 20th January 2019
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Matt Harper said:
The Moose said:
My understanding is that if you don’t push for them to process your green card application, the employer can and sometimes do use it as a stick to beat you with, as opposed to treating you as a ‘normal’ employee.
In my case, my employer assured me that they would petition LPR for me - then reneged on that promise when they realized that I could then leave their employ and remain in the country. Using a work visa as a leash is more common than most visa beneficiaries realize. Those situations require some creativity to extricate from. Some critics said I should have got it in writing, but my employer was such a spiteful dirt-bag, that would have made zero difference.
I remember talking with you about this along time ago. I’ve come across a number of people who have had similar situations. Not just keeping them working, but refusing bonuses, increases in wages etc.

The people I met who made it work view it as all part of the journey. Those who returned back ‘home’ cite it as the reason for returning back.