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Rich Foreigners Buy U.S. Homes: Unreal Estate

MIAMI ( TheStreet) -- The nation's real estate market is starting to show a pulse again, and international buyers have been partly responsible for its improving health.

Price reductions in the U.S. have made its real estate offerings more attractive to foreign buyers who see an entry point into purchases they have long coveted. On a routine basis, tour groups from China are visiting New York, Boston and San Francisco to scope out potential buys. Investors from Spain and Italy have emerged among their European peers. Latin American countries are taking advantage of bottomed-out prices in Miami.

Rodrigo Nino, president of the global real estate firm Prodigy International, is among those betting on the trend to continue and grow. He recently launched Prodigy Network to purchase residential condominiums for international investors. The company will initially buy approximately $100 million worth of new condominiums on behalf of investors located in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

A Russian billionaire bought a mansion in Miami from NBA star Shaquille O'Neal earlier this year.

He is focusing on projects with units that cost $350,000 to $3 million in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey and Miami.

Miami, a city whose property prices have been pummeled, is of particular interest to Latin American buyers, he says. Home prices have been slashed by as much as 65% to 70%. Even beachfront condos are selling for a song.

"You are making the money the developer is losing," Nino says. "That is something the investors like and they are coming in at full swing."

Nino says his Miami buyers hail mostly from Venezuela, but Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Argentina are also represented. European buyers largely come from Spain and Italy. The majority of buyers from these countries pay cash and don't need loans, Nino says.

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