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How to Sell Your Home to Foreign Buyer

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Having trouble selling your home? Maybe you should cast a wider net and go after foreign buyers.

Foreigners are among the most eager buyers of residential real estate in the U.S., drawn by low prices and the weakness of the dollar, according to research by the National Association of Realtors. About 62% of foreign buyers pay cash, making them especially appealing at a time many U.S. shoppers are having trouble getting loans.

Certain locations have an obvious appeal for homebuyers from other countries, such as Miami, which attracts a diverse set of international buyers that includes South Americans, Europeans and Canadians.

For the 12 months ended in March, foreign buyers picked up $82.5 billion worth of residential real estate in the U.S., up from $66.4 billion the year before, NAR said, with sales split evenly between nonresidents and recent immigrants. U.S. properties may be used as primary homes, vacation homes or investments.

About 55% of foreign buyers are from Canada, China, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom. Canadian buyers lead the pack, accounting for 24% of international sales, with Chinese second at 11%. About half of international buyers choose properties in Florida, California, Texas or Arizona, with Florida first, accounting for 26% of foreign purchases.

While the typical foreign buyer is wealthier than the average domestic buyer, the market is not limited to the rich. The average price paid by foreign buyers was $400,000, with 45% of their purchases being for less than $250,000.

How can you tap this market?

First, figure if your home is a likely candidate. Certain locations have an obvious appeal, such as Miami or San Francisco. But even if you are in the hinterlands your home could attract a foreign buyer if, for instance, there is an employer nearby who brings in foreign executives.

"Proximity to the home country, the presence of relatives and friends, the convenience of air transportation and climate and location are all important considerations to prospective foreign buyers," the NAR says. "Locations on the East Coast generally attract European buyers, while Asian buyers tend to purchase on the West Coast, particularly California. Florida attracts a diverse set of international buyers, including South Americans, Europeans and Canadians. Meanwhile, Texas remains popular among Mexican buyers."

If your property is likely to appeal to foreign buyers, choose a real estate agent with experience in this market. Those who have received the Certified International Property Specialist designation from the NAR have been trained on issues related to culture, exchange rates, investment trends and legal issues. Ideally, your agent will speak the language used by foreign buyers prominent in your area.

Be sure your home is listed on the Realtor.com International site, which caters to foreign buyers. Consider contacting local employers who might offer relocation assistance to employees.

Finally, be sure your brochures and agent have the information a foreign buyer will need: your home's proximity to the airport and data on the local international community, including places to shop and socialize with others of the same background. 

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