Did you know that there are anonymous international buyers paying all cash for luxury properties in America under LLCs? Regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, the U.S. Treasury Department has announced that they’ll be monitoring those transactions in New York City and Miami to identify buyers.
There were hints that this two-city program could roll out nationally, but the program must first prove to be a success.
Why the Feds care
This purchasing method is becoming increasingly common across major cities in America, and the Treasury Department’s Director of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Jennifer Shasky Calvery told the NYT:
“We are concerned about the possibility that dirty money is being put into luxury real estate. We think some of the bigger risk is around the least transparent transactions.”
Why you should care
Making money as a Realtor is pretty appealing, especially if you want to survive, and saying no to a transaction based on their funding my prove difficult for some who are trying to just make an honest living.
There’s an ethical issue at play here – the reason for the monitoring is that our government believes this is one way money is being laundered.
“We are seeking to understand the risk that corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals, may be using premium US real estate to safely and secretly invest millions in dirty money,” said Calvery.
So how does this effect you?
If you’re in NYC or Miami, if you sell a property that’s over $3M, the government will require the title insurance company to discover the buyers’ names and submit that info to the Treasury database which law enforcement will have access to.
It sounds like a minimal number of deals, but the NYT reports that in Manhattan, 1,045 apartments would have qualified for this information collection process in the second half of 2015 alone, representing over $6.5B in total.
This marks the first time the Feds have required this level of disclosure in transactions, and the pilot program will run from March through August, becoming permanent nationally if the task force offers significant findings of money laundering.
So, the secret deals are over in these two cities, at least until August.
If this goes national, we expect international purchases of luxury properties to diminish, as it becomes less appealing for a very specific, yet exceedingly wealthy type of buyer. Further, real estate practitioners profiting from this type of purchase will likely see a rapid and sharp drop in volume.