Foreign Home Buyers: Where and Why?

The top five countries with international buyers purchasing in the United States are Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Where and why are they buying?

Where Are Foreign Buyers Searching?

Information from realtor.com (Omniture Discover) shows the U.S. cities for which potential foreign buyers have been most actively searching on-line:  New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, San Francisco, Houston, and Naples.

Why are they Interested in Buying?

NAR’s annual Profile of Home Buying Activity collects information on why foreign buyers are interested in U.S. properties:

  • Canadians tend to buy in Arizona, Nevada and Florida—apparently seeking winter vacation opportunities.  Cities recently reported by realtor.com include Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Naples.
  • Chinese buyers are strongly focused on the west coast, which provides geographical proximity, educational opportunities, and business and trade opportunities, for example, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, as well as New York and Houston.  Many of the purchases are for business, educational, and investment purposes, although there is also interest in vacation homes.
  • Indians   purchase throughout the country, much less concentrated in purchases than other nationalities.  Cities mentioned include New York, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, and Chicago.  Given the lack of areas generally mentioned as resort/vacation locales, REALTOR comments that many purchases by Indian buyers are business oriented seem to be on target.
  • Mexicans are particularly interested in Texas.  Cities include San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso, as well as San Diego and Miami.  Both investment and lifestyle are of interest, as well as a desire in some cases for vacation homes.
  • U.K. citizens focus on both vacation and work oriented areas:  Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Kissimmee, Houston, and San Francisco have featured prominently in recent searches.

In short, there are a wide variety of reasons underlying foreign purchases.  At a time of rising prices and a rising dollar exchange rate, the motivation behind the purchase may drive the property decision.  However, despite rising prices U.S. property appears to continue to be reasonably priced relative to properties in many foreign countries.

Jed Smith, Managing Director, Quantitative Research

Jed Smith is Managing Director, Quantitative Research with the National Association of Realtors®. He has worked on real estate issues for the past 20 years, providing input on a variety of housing, commercial real estate, tax, and planning issues. Recently he has been involved in several international studies.

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