Category Archives: Real Estate

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What foreign sellers need to know about FIRPTA.

As you know, the Colony’s combination of location, views, lifestyle and amenities make it an irresistible place to call home. I specialize in helping families buy and sell homes in the Colony, including sellers from overseas.

Many of my overseas clients have asked me about recent changes to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA). In the coming months, I’ll be hosting seminars about FIRPTA and other issues impacting foreign sellers with BJ Cottrell of Naples-based Cottrell Tax & Accounting. BJ has handled hundreds of FIRPTA sales throughout Southwest Florida. Our seminars will be exclusively for Colony property owners. In the meantime, I’ve asked BJ to provide a basic introduction here.

BJ, how does FIRPTA impact foreign sellers?

When a person from overseas owns real property in the United States and sells it, 15% of the property’s sales price must be withheld by the person buying the property. That is, 15% of the foreign seller’s sales price is withheld from the seller. The good news is that foreign sellers can get part of that money back sooner rather than later if they take the proper steps.

What kinds of steps BJ?

One option is to file what is known as a Withholding Certificate with the Internal Revenue Service. About two months after the certificate is filed, the foreign seller will receive a portion of the money withheld. The amount reimbursed depends on factors such as the capital gains on the property and the seller’s tax bracket.

Another option is to simply file one’s taxes and wait for the refund. Of course, if you sell your property early in the year, the wait for your refund will be considerable, probably until February or March of the following year.

Sounds like filing a Withholding Certificate is the way to go…

It depends on the seller’s particular situation. For example, if you sold your home in the Colony for $1 million, you’d be looking at $150,000 being withheld. Most people wouldn’t want to lose access to that amount of money for long and would probably be best off filing the Withholding Certificate. It costs $750 to do so, but the opportunity to get, say, $125,000 of that money reimbursed in two months makes it well worth the price.

Foreign sellers also have to obtain an ITIN number, right?

Yes. ITIN stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. It’s something like a Social Security Number for nonresidents. Whether a foreign seller files a Withholding Certificated or just files taxes, he or she needs an ITIN number.

There are three ways to get an ITIN number, all of which require that your passport is authenticated. You could send the IRS your passport, but it could very well take three months for the IRS to return it.

Another option is to go to the IRS Service Center in Fort Myers. You won’t have to sacrifice access to your passport for three months, but you will have to stand in line, probably for a very long time. You might want to bring along some reading materials—lots of reading materials—to pass the time.

Finally, a Certified Acceptance Agent can authenticate your passport right here in Naples and help you obtain your ITIN.

You’re a Certified Acceptance Agent, aren’t you BJ?

That’s a very good question Jill and I’m glad you asked it LOL. I am indeed one of the very few Certified Acceptance Agents in Southwest Florida.

Anything else that foreign sellers should know about the closing process?

One other factor to consider is that in Collier County buyers choose their title companies. This means that the buyer’s title company will have considerable impact on how quickly a seller can receive reimbursement on the amount of money being withheld following the sale of his or her property. Foreign sellers may want to investigate the reputation of the buyer’s title company and suggest an alternative if there are any red flags.

Thanks BJ. Foreign sellers can learn much more about FIRPTA and making the sales process as smooth as possible by attending our upcoming seminar. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and get information about your particular situation. BJ and I look forward to seeing you there.


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7 Tips for Working with Your Realtor on Finding a Luxury Home

If you have made the decision to buy a luxury home, such as the exquisite high rise condos in Bonita Springs like The Colony, it’s time to get started looking at potential properties that could be your next luxury home. Buying a luxury home is an exciting time — you’re about to make your dreams come true! But before you get started looking, read these seven tips for working with your realtor that can make the home-buying process a breeze.

Read on to learn how you can simplify the process and make it as stress free as possible!

1. Know Your Affordability

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it sadly, there are people who just don’t realize that this is the first step in the home buying — and even just looking — process. There’s no sense in getting your heart broken by falling in love with a property that’s outside your budget. There are plenty of luxury homes that can accommodate budgets anywhere from $400,000 to $1,000,000+, so don’t worry that you won’t find a perfect match. However, it’s important to know your limitations. If you’re buying with cash, this should be a no-brainer, but don’t forget to account for closing costs and fees and any minor changes you may want to do to your home, such as getting it painted in the color you like best or upgrading countertops or appliances. If you’ll need a mortgage, get a preapproval letter before you start looking — then you’ll know exactly what you will be approved for. It’s best to have a realistic approach, especially when it comes to major financial purchases.

2. Determine Your Must-Haves

There are some options that will be deal breakers for you, and there will be some things that would be nice, but that you can live without. Create a list of must-haves so your realtor won’t waste any time showing you properties that don’t meet your luxury home-buying criteria. With this list, add things that really matter and aren’t easily changed/upgraded. For example, if having an extra bedroom available for loved ones to stay is critically important to you, put that on your must-have list. Make your must-have list about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the floorplan, the amenities, and things that can’t easily be changed.  With that said, keep in mind that things like light fixtures, appliances, and countertops can be changed. If you’re not handy, you can hire someone to do these things for you — just be cognizant of that with your budget.

3. Try to Be Realistic

With that said, you may have a list of must-haves to the moon, but that property might not exist. Try to be realistic with your expectations and not include deal-breakers that could be easily added. For example, if you don’t want to have to remodel anything in a home, you might want to still consider a home that has a paint color you don’t care for because that’s an easy fix! Getting your home painted in the colors that fit your personality will likely be something you want to do anyway, and it’s typically not something that will break your home-buying budget. Additionally, if you’re looking at homes that have every high-end option available, expect a high-end price tag. You aren’t going to be able to buy a diamond for the price of a rock.

4. Keep Appointments & Be Punctual

Five minutes late isn’t going to upset your realtor, but not showing up for appointments or expecting a realtor to wait for an hour is unrealistic and isn’t the best way to start your relationship with your realtor. While it’s true that all realtors are in the business of working for their clients, be sure to stay respectful of their time just as they will of yours. I work very hard to meet the needs of my clients, but in order to be respectful of every client’s needs, I have to work on a schedule. This is important for appointments.

5. Know What You Want, Where You Want It

Location! Location! Location! This phrase has been uttered by probably every real estate agent in the country, and the reason is that it’s crucially important. You can change things about your home, but you can’t change the location. So, if you want a highrise condo that overlooks the beach and not a golf course, be sure to communicate this to your realtor. This way you can be sure to only see the luxury homes that meet your needs. Similarly, if you’re looking for a luxury highrise condo and not a villa-style, it’s important to let your realtor know. Keep in mind that if you’ve never been in a highrise home, you may want to check one out. The breathtaking views like the ones The Colony luxury highrise homes have to offer just might captivate you!

6. Understand It’s a Process

Buying a home, whether it’s a luxury home or your first home, is a process! There are a lot of steps, financial documents needed, and paperwork to be completed. Expect that you will need to amass financial records, and get

your hand ready to sign, sign, sign!

7. Don’t Be Off Put by HOAs and Maintenance Fees

Living in a luxury home with amenities is one of the most sought-after life experiences that individuals hope to attain. From talking with my clients, many are retiring to a luxury highrise home to experience the good life. With that said, some clients aren’t aware of the fees that come with owning a luxury home. You’ll have access to excellent health clubs, the golf club, private beaches and more when you buy a luxury home, but it will be something that you pay for outside of your mortgage.

Get Started with Your Luxury Home Search in Bonita Springs: Contact Jill Kushner Today

I hope you’ve learned a lot about the luxury home-buying process — you’ll see it’s not that far off from buying any property, but there’s a lot more at stake. This can make things more stressful, but if you take these tips, you’ll be sure to close on your luxury home without worry and with ease!

As a realtor and resident of The Colony in Bonita Springs for several years, I know all the residences in and out. I am passionate about helping my clients find the perfect luxury home and would love to help you get started. Contact me today by calling (239) 691-5505 or by clicking here.


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The Top 5 Travel Destinations for 2016

When you live in The Colony, chances are, every day is a vacation. You’ve got every amenity at your disposal – from private beach

access and a community boat launch to top notch golfing, everything you could ever want is available at The Colony. The surrounding area in Bonita Springs also offers excellent shopping and fine dining options. However, nothing can beat a change of pace. Getting out and exploring what the United States has to offer beyond Florida can bring you the memories of a lifetime and experiences you won’t forget. Read on to find out about the top 5 travel destinations that are perfect for those looking to get away!

#1: New York

NEW YORK CITY – If you’re looking for the excitement of a big city, look no further than New York City! You certainly won’t run out of things to do with all that The Big Apple has to offer. There is a myriad of well-known museums, theatres and operas, like Carnegie Hall and The Metropolitan Opera. For any American, visiting the 9/11 Memorial is sure to be a moving and memorable experience as well. On a lighter note, you could pack a picnic and experience gorgeous Central Park, or get dinner and drinks and feel the buzz of Times Square.  You will also have to visit the historic Statue of Liberty to round out your visit. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention taking in the views of the gargantuan skyscrapers of Wall Street, too! And this is just a snippet of what you could do in New York!

THE HAMPTONS –  If you’re thinking of a change of scenery that’s not quite as action packed and more on the relaxing side, look no further than the Hamptons. Experience a different kind of beach while still enjoying the comforts of luxury. There are still plenty of activities to do — golfing, fishing, kayaking are just a few things you can do in this top notch vacation destination. Sip on some wine while touring the vineyards. In the Hamptons, you can eat some of the best seafood that the east coast has to offer, all while in the company of people who like to enjoy the finer things in life.

#2: Hawaii

OAHU & KAUAI – Hawaii brings a tropical paradise that is unlike any beach destination on the mainland. Whether you’re visiting the popular Oahu or the less populated Kauai to take in stunning views, there are endless options to satisfy anyone’s vacation tastes. You can be active and go hiking amongst the volcanoes and waterfalls or experience underwater sea life with some of the best spots for snorkeling and scuba diving. You can simply relax on the beach or take advantage of health spas in the area, too. With all the entertainment opportunities, you’ll be able to experience whatever you like — restaurants, shopping, and nightlife options are endless! Hawaii tops almost any vacation destination list because it’s really got everything!

#3: Colorado

ASPEN/VAIL – If you started out as a snowbird and are now living in The Colony permanently, you might miss a touch of snow from time to time. The perfect cure for that itch is to visit the slopes in Vail or Aspen, Colorado! Take in the views of the Rockies while cruising down the slopes.  Although Vail offers more challenging slopes than Aspen, Aspen can add a historical dimension to your trip— visit the mining museums while you’re there to add to your experience!

#4: Nevada

LAS VEGAS – Viva, Las Vegas! Trade in laying on the beach for getting waited on poolside, and once the sun goes down, you can hit up the strip. There are endless casinos, shows, and dining options at your fingertips. Take a tour of the strip or walk it yourself — you’ll never get bored! You’ve also got access to excellent spas and shopping, so this can be a perfect trip for guys and gals alike!

If you’ve had enough of the nonstop flashing lights and never-ending nightlife, take a short trip over to the Grand Canyon and experience

it by helicopter! You’ll never be able to get the breathtaking views on land, but it’s definitely a trip for those with easy flying legs. Do more than just the strip and experience nature’s wonders!

#5: Tennessee

Get out there and see something different! Just a short trip away, Tennessee offers majestic mountains and some unbeatable vacation destinations that are just a short trip away.

NASHVILLE – If you’re a fan of country music, Nashville is

a must — see a show at the Grand Ole Opry and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. Have a fun time exploring downtown Nashville, which offers shopping, excellent restaurants, and exciting nightlife. Discover new artists while listening to live country music at any of the honky tonks in the area! Music City is sure to be a pleaser for country music fans and novices alike, and it’s a perfect destination for an extended weekend stay!

MEMPHIS – Similarly, if you’re an Elvis or blues fan, Memphis is also a great spot to visit. Have a blast on Beale Street, visit Sun Studios and Graceland, and experience the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the Lorraine Motel.

GATLINBURG – Gatlinburg is also sure to hit the spot of those seeking more out of their vacation than beaches and traditional tourist destinations. Get adventurous in Tennessee — go whitewater rafting, zip

lining, hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, camping, and more. When you’re ready for a break from all the activity, take home a mason jar of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine at their distillery in Gatlinburg.

Get Out and Travel!

If you’re looking to get away, the bottom line is that you’ve got a pick a place that aligns with your interests. What are you hoping to experience and how do you envision your vacation? These are some great options, but it’s a big world out there — get exploring!


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Are You Retiring? Consider Downsizing Your Home

Retirement is an exciting time, and if you’re at that point in your life, it’s time to examine your current situation, financially and in terms of real estate, to determine how you want to spend your golden years. When you’re ready to retire, downsizing from a single family home to a highrise condo can be an attractive option— after all, it’s finally time to relax! Read on to find out how downsizing may be the right move for you!

Downsizing Doesn’t Mean Downgrading!

When you’ve invested in a single family home, you’ve got a lot of things. You might have an in-home office, a garage, a yard. When you trade all of that in for a highrise condo, the tradeoff has to be worth it. Luxury highrise condos are the way to go. Maintenance free, chock full of amenities, upgrades galore, and exquisite design details; your condo could be what you’ve always dreamed of having. Add in a gorgeous view, and you’re living in paradise! Why vacation? It’s time to live the good life every day.

Two Words: Liquid Assets

If you’re nearing retirement age, you may be in a situation where you have paid for most of your current home (if not paid it off entirely). Selling your home for a condo may leave you with a decent amount of funds that can be used as you wish. Maybe you’ll invest that money, add it to your retirement income, or make your monthly payment on your condo lower. Of course, every situation is independent to the individual, but it might be something to consider if you’re in that position.

Declutter and Live Freely!

Don’t think of downsizing as a negative thing. Think of it as finding the size that fits your current needs and an opportunity to leave a cleaner, less cluttered life. Downsizing can mean getting rid of junk! You have it, I have it, we all have it. But why should you surround yourself with things that just take up space? Live with what you need and live well. Donate items to charity and feel good about the positive impact you’re making. Yes, downsizing means that you will have less space. However, you are perfectly capable of living a happy life — if not happier, more relaxed life — in a highrise condo.

Less Work, More Reward

Highrise condos provide you with easy living! No more mowing and watering the grass, taking care of landscaping gardens, or cleaning the gutters! When you downsize to a condo, you’re rewarding yourself with, to put it simply, less work! Not only will you not have to go to your job, but you won’t have to do work around the house and handle general maintenance. And that means you’ll have more time to enjoy the things you love, like golfing, hanging by the pool, shopping, and eating out. The great news about living in The Colony in Bonita Springs is that you will never run out of things to do. We offer golf, kayaking/canoeing, fitness, a butterfly garden, and more.

You’re Retired – Enjoy It!

Luxury highrise condos are typically surrounded by things to do! You’ve been working your whole life, and it’s finally time to take time out for yourself. Highrise condos offer a ton of amenities within the building, like fitness centers, pool and barbecue areas, private golf courses, and some even have spas. Picture it now: you’ll be looking forward to Monday morning because you can go golfing, hit the beach, lay out by the pool or do exactly what you want to do. These are all things that highrise condos, like The Colony, offer. That’s what retirement is supposed to be all about, right?

Freedom to Travel

When you own a single family home, the thought of leaving it can be daunting — what if something goes wrong, and no one is there to tend to it? What if someone breaks in? Who will cut the grass? The list of worries could go on. When you downsize to a highrise condo, you won’t have to worry about who will take care of your home because your association will take care of it for you. And as an added bonus, most luxury highrise condos offer excellent security as part of the amenities they offer.

Safety First!

Speaking of security, not only will you not have to worry if you want to pack your bags and travel, but when you’re at home, your mind will be at ease knowing you’re living within a safe community that has its own private security. Solicitors won’t be able to bother you, and scam artists posing as solicitors won’t make it past the front gates. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that there’s surveillance in the unlikely event something might go wrong (after all, we do not live in a perfect world — but highrise condo living might be as close as you can get!). Security can get expensive in a single family home because you have to pay for the installation as well as monthly fees to keep it running, and even if you already invest in a security system, you likely don’t have actual security guards manning the entrance. Security won’t be free in a highrise condo, but it will wrapped up in a nominal HOA/condo fee.

Community Living

If you’re like many folks who have retired, you may have children who have grown up or perhaps moved away to attend college. Even if you’re married or have a significant other, living by yourself can get lonely. Highrise condos are an ideal situation for retired individuals because there’s a lot to do, and a lot of people around you who are at similar points in their lives and who likely share common interests. You can make new friends and enjoy spending time with the friends you’ve had for years. Individuals who invest in luxury highrise condos for their retirement years are looking for the same things you are because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there.

Retire in Style! Consider The Colony in Bonita Springs Today

If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your move to a highrise condo, I strongly urge you to consider The Colony in Bonita Springs, Florida.

We’re located in the quiet heart of Southwest Florida, with close proximity to beautiful beaches, high-end shopping, amazing dining, and more. Additionally, The Colony offers highrise condos with an abundance of amenities: kayaking, canoeing, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a butterfly garden, and more.

To learn more about luxury, highrise condos in The Colony, contact Jill Kushner, a real estate specialist and resident of The Colony. Simply call (239) 691-5505 or click here.