The National Association of Realtors annually examines the purchases of real estate in the United States by international buyers. As they point out: “We live in a global marketplace. While all real estate is local, not all property buyers are.” The estimated volume of international sales increased between 2011 and 2012 by 24 percent.
The 2012 Profile of International Home Buying Activity report revealed that:
• Total sales volume to international clients is estimated as $82.5 Billion in 2012, up from an estimated $66.4 Billion for the 12 months ending March 2011.
• About 20% of clients are obtained through website/online listings.
• 27% of Realtors® reported having worked with international clients. Realtor specialization on the buyer’s side of the market—such as foreign language capabilities, cultural affinity or orientation with the prospective purchaser and experience in explaining U.S. real estate to foreigners—appear to be important in bringing an international transaction to successful conclusion.
• International buyers came from nearly all over the globe, but five countries accounted for 55% percent of transactions: Canada, The People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong), Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom.
• Just four states accounted for 51% of purchases: Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
• Fifty-two percent of Realtors® reported that international transactions accounted for 1-10% of their total transactions, while 27% reported that international transactions made up more than 10% of total transactions.
• Forty-five% of international purchases were under $250,000. There appears to be a gradually increasing trend towards purchases in the $250,000 to $ 500,000 range. There was a jump in the sales of homes valued at $1 million and up.
What makes an international buyer look at property in the United States? “Proximity to the home country; the presence of relatives, friends, and associates; the convenience of air transportation; climate and location appear to be important considerations to prospective buyers. For example, the East Coast attracts Europeans. The West Coast is attractive to Asian purchasers. Florida appears to be attractive to South Americans as well as Europeans and Canadians. Within markets in an individual state, it is not unusual to find concentrations of people grouped by nationality. One could speculate that word-of-mouth and shared experiences influence the purchase.”