Foreign buyers see U.S. as profitable investment

June 24, 2013

Foreign buyers see U.S. as profitable investment

International home sales in the U.S. declined in the past year, but are at their second highest level in recent years and over six percent of total existing-home sales in value. According to the National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, interest in U.S. properties continues to grow, signaling that America continues to be regarded by international buyers as a great place to own property.

Of total international transactions, $34.8 billion (51 percent) were attributed to foreign buyers with permanent residences outside the U.S. and $33.4 billion (49 percent) were attributed to buyers who are recent immigrants or temporary visa holders residing for more than six months in the U.S.
“Foreign buyers are experiencing hurdles not only abroad, but also here in the U.S. when it comes to purchasing property,” says NAR President Gary Thomas. “Difficult economic conditions, particularly in Europe, have impacted foreign buyers, but several factors in the U.S. have also affected their purchasing power here. Tight credit standards have made financing challenging for immigrants, and low housing inventories have made finding a house difficult. However, none of these factors appear to be permanent.”
Foreign buyers continue to have a substantial interest in U.S. properties. Over a five year timeframe more than 70 percent of Realtors reported a constant or increasing level in the number of international clients contacting them.

“Many factors influence foreign buyers’ decisions on where to purchase in the U.S., but the most important are proximity to home country, presence of relatives and friends, availability of job and education opportunities, and the climate,” says Thomas. “International buyers also differ on the type of desired property. Some are looking for trophy properties while others are interested in modest vacation homes.”
Five states made up 61 percent of reported purchases: Florida (23 percent), California (17 percent), Arizona (9 percent), Texas (9 percent) and New York (3 percent).
About half of foreign buyers preferred to purchase in a suburban area, while a quarter preferred a more central city/urban area. A majority purchased a detached single-family home and 63 percent used all-cash.
Based on the reported international transactions, the mean and median prices of purchases were higher when compared to purchase prices of domestic buyers. For the 12 months ending March 2013 the median international home price was $275,862, and for domestic buyers it was $179,867.
The types of homes purchased by international buyers frequently tended to be different from the types of homes purchased by domestic U.S. buyers. International buyers are more likely to be substantially wealthier and looking for a property in a specialized niche.

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