Foreign Buyers

Foreign Investment in US Real Estate at an All-Time High

Despite all the doom and gloom in the news about the domestic market, the US still remains a highly desirable place for international real estate investors. While US real estate has always attracted foreign investors, recent events have increased this interest even further.

The major reasons for this surge in interest include the comparative weakening of the US Dollar; plentiful available inventory and lower property prices due to foreclosures; and depressed local real estate markets. Another huge factor is the potential of a gradual economic recovery in the US and a rapidly worsening situation in continental Europe.

Compared to likes of Spain, Italy or Greece, the US has a stable and secure real estate market with much lower barriers to entry for international buyers. American homes are also generally less expensive than their European counterparts and offer the prospect of long term appreciation. Foreign buyers are also well aware of the thriving rental property market.

A lot of countries make it next to impossible for non-citizens to own property. This is not the case in the US, where wealthy foreigners are welcome to invest in American property (there are some notable exceptions to this, as we will see below). Immigrants to the US still see home ownership as a key step in achieving the American dream; nearly 80% of foreign-born U.S. residents owned a home in 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors. Compare that to the national home ownership rate of around 67% in 2009.

Visas for Foreign Buyers

The collapse of the housing market and the ensuing recession has left a massive supply of unsold homes all over the country. Since the peak of the housing bubble in 2006 home values have seen an average decline of 33%. The drop in home prices combined with a lack of demand means that there is a glut of unsold homes in the market today. This excess supply is slowing down the recovery of the U.S. housing market, and is the impetus behind a bold new bipartisan plan by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to boost demand by encouraging foreign investors.

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