At times, immigration law bears on real estate issues, given that many people try and gain entry into the United States by investing in real estate. As such, this month I am honored to feature real estate attorney extraordinaire, Richard L. Barbara, for our SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to sit with us, Rich. First off, please tell our readers about yourself. What sort of cases do you handle in your practice?
A: Hi Elina, thank you for having me, the pleasure is all mine. Alvarez Barbara is a general civil practice. My practice focuses on real estate law with an emphasis on real estate transactions of all kinds. I also do some commercial and real estate related litigation. The Firm recently celebrated its 10th year, and we are committed to providing quality, high value representation for our clients.
Q: What prompted you to become an attorney?
A: I never wanted to be anything else. I am among the lucky few who was able to grow up and be exactly what I always wanted to be, and that’s an Attorney. I can’t really explain what it was, but for as long as I can remember, I never imagined myself doing anything else.
Q: What sort of cases are you most passionate about?
A: I’m passionate about my clients. The cases and transactions are just the vehicles through which I am able to assist them. I am passionate about solving people’s problems and getting them the best possible result.
Q: Do you encounter clients whose immigration/citizenship status has some significance to a particular case or transaction? If so, why so?
A: Yes, certainly. In many instances, a person’s immigration status bears heavily on the strategy employed to accomplish our objective. For example, we have many foreigners making considerable investment in our real estate market. An investor’s citizenship is often an influencing factor in how they acquire title to real property in the United States. Similarly, many sellers of real property are affected by their citizenship status as the proceeds from sales can be subject to additional taxes based on their citizenship.
Q: How often does this occur?
A: Pretty often. Miami is indeed a “melting pot” of different peoples, and the same is true of the real estate market in south Florida.
Q: What sort of immigration “issues” do you keep in mind when a party to a real estate transaction is not a U.S. citizen?
A: Well, in the transactional setting, it depends on whether the client is a buyer or a seller. If we are representing a seller who is not a U.S. citizen great care must be taken to make sure the seller complies with the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (commonly referred to as “FIRPTA”). Depending on the dollar amount of the transaction, and some other factors that I won’t bore you with the details of, the IRS imposes additional tax liabilities on the Seller’s proceeds from the sale. When a transaction has a FIRPTA component, it is important that the lawyers involved know how to recognize the issue so that we can get the proper tax professionals involved for the affected parties. Failure to comply with FIRPTA can result in painful and expensive consequences for the parties to the transaction, and even to the closing/title agent who handled the closing.
Q: What about when you represent non-U.S. citizen Buyers?
A: In a buyer representation setting, the citizenship concern also boils down to tax treatment. We want to make sure that the Buyer is well advised from a tax perspective, and we leave that to the skilled tax professionals with who we have long-standing relationships. And just from a practical concern, we ensure that the actual closing of a transaction involving a foreign buyer goes smoothly. Nowadays, buyers and sellers rarely get together in one room to “close” the deal. Sometimes the buyer at home overseas and you have to know how to anticipate the “hiccups” incident to delays in the arrival of purchase money funds coming from overseas, or making sure documents are executed properly when the client is an ocean away, etc.,
Q: Why is it important that a real estate attorney be aware of the immigration/citizenship consequences of their clients’ real estate transactions?
A: Because failing to be aware of it can result in considerable headache and expense to the client. People want their lawyers to help them solve problems, not create them with oversight.
Q: What do you like best about your work?
A: It is very rewarding to be a part of deals getting done. Very often, lawyers spend their time in an adversarial setting. A setting where what is good for one party is inherently bad for the other. In the transactional setting, everyone has the same goal. The goal is to “close the deal”. Just because the parties’ interests are aligned does not mean there aren’t challenges. But that’s what makes overcoming those challenges that much more rewarding. The resolution helps EVERYONE. This is a perk of doing transactional work. It’s not always sexy, but it is very rewarding.
Q:How can our subscribers reach you for a consultation?
A: Subscribers can contact me anytime to discuss their real estate needs or to seek a consultation. Should you need to get a hold of me, you can call: (305)263-7700. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website, www.alvarezbarbara.com
Thank you, Rich, for sharing your knowledge with our subscribers. This is Elina signing off until next month’s spotlight interview. Have a great month!