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How Do Foreign Buyers Decide on a U.S. Location for a Home Purchase?

Foreign buyers purchase U.S. residential existing-home properties for a variety of reasons—for example, vacation, investment, asset diversification, and residential use.  How do they decide where to buy?

Based on information from NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients, proximity to the home country, the presence of relatives, friends and associates, job and educational opportunities, and climate and location appear to be important considerations to prospective buyers. Europeans and Canadians are attracted to Florida and Arizona for their warmer climates. California and Texas are favored by purchasers from Asia/Oceania. Buyers from Latin America, including Mexico, favor states in close proximity such as Texas and Florida.

The top five countries with international buyers purchasing in the United States are Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom:

  • Chinese buyers tend to focus more heavily on the west coast but can also be found throughout the United States.
  • 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.
  • Buyers from India 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, many purchases by Indian buyers are business oriented.
  • Mexican purchasers 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 been featured prominently in recent searches.

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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