Editor’s note: Foreign home buyers are playing a significant role in some U.S. markets, and U.S. buyers are showing a growing interest in international markets. Florida is just one example of growing globalization in the real estate industry. In this three-part series, Inman News examines the habits of international real estate buyers and the close ties between cross-border buyers and luxury markets. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)
As they check out 8,000-square-foot waterfront mansions with pools, tennis courts, screening rooms and wine cellars from 10,000 miles away, international buyers are – despite what F. Scott Fitzgerald said – just like you and me.
At least, that’s what their agents say. “Interestingly, residential real estate, no matter what level, is emotional. When you are talking about your own home, a reflection of who you are, it’s always personal. They are looking for a home, not a house,” said Donna Lee Laue, one of the founders of www.UniqueGlobalEstates.com.
“How you go about working with a global buyer is exactly the same way you would go about working with a local buyer,” Laue said.
Luxury foreign buyers fall into the more than 70 percent of consumers who begin looking for a home online, Laue said. They also use magazines such as Unique Homes and Ultimate Homes, she said.
Florida is one of the most popular states with international buyers, Laue said, and has been for quite some time. Nevada and Colorado are also high on the popularity list, and in the last few years, clients have been looking for wide open spaces, exploring the Carolinas and Virginia.
Luxury Miami Beach agent Yolande Citro, a Frenchwoman who speaks five languages, has a number of international clients. She said her clients get their information on homes for sale “mainly from the Internet,” and that one big draw for U.S. purchases is the difference in price.
“The United States is still less expensive than Europe,” Citro said. Miami appeals to her clients because it has an international airport and because there are already a number of foreigners living in the city, she said. Clients favor Florida because they love the sunshine, according to Citro.
“Actually, 15 percent of all purchasers in Florida are from abroad,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, president of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, citing a 2005 National Association of Realtors study on international buyers in Florida.
Birds of a feather flock together, according to the NAR study, Moore-Moore said; “If you’re in Orlando, the majority of buyers coming into Orlando are from the United Kingdom. In Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Venezuelans lead the list.”
Foreign buyers are looking for lifestyle, they are looking for where the investment is going to be solid and where there is already a community of people from their country, Moore-Moore said.
“They are looking for a stable currency, political stability and peace of mind regarding their ownership,” said Moore-Moore. Laue said, “They love the protection the United States ensures. We don’t change our laws. It’s about the legal system and the stability of our country.”
In the NAR report, about 40 percent of the respondents said they were buying for vacation use, about 17 percent because they spend time working in the United States, and another 27 percent or so buy purely for investment, Moore-Moore said.
The international market is one that may continue to be strong despite possible slowing in other markets, Moore-Moore said
Factors that might limit demand are cultural differences and language differences, as well as increased difficulties for foreigners in getting visas and entering the country because of Homeland Security. Also, just like American citizens, buyers from abroad are concerned about a real estate bubble and international buyers may now have some concerns about disasters in the wake of last year’s hurricanes.
But the country still presents attractive options to international buyers, Moore-Moore said.
“There’s a large home supply here and that’s not the case in other countries,” Moore-Moore said. “People say there’s a lot to choose from. Also, fast, easy turnover of property is very appealing to the foreign buyer here, relative to their own country. There are very few restrictions in ownership. There is investment growth potential, if you choose your markets carefully.”
These are things that might keep demand high, Moore-Moore said.
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