While doing remote work in another country is not nearly as simple as doing it from another city, the pandemic has still pushed many to look beyond the U.S. for where they want to work or at least vacation.
A recent PointHomes study found that online searches of everything from "homes in Mexico," "Mexican vacation houses" and "little beach house in Puerto Vallarta" jumped by over 60% between 2021 and 2022.
This trend has many causes -- while some are simply wanderlusting after years of curbed travel plans, the pandemic and the rise of remote work did make it possible for a lot more people to do productive work from a non-standard destination.
A study by online freelancing platform Upwork found that over 26% of the American workforce worked remotely for at least part of 2021 while one fourth of white-collar jobs in the country will be remote by 2023.
As working (remotely or not) in a foreign country requires citizenship or work authorization, many tropical destinations are specifically trying to attract remote professionals with simplified visa procedures and sometimes even cash or real estate incentives.
And then there are the lower real estate prices.
So Where Are Americans Buying Up Homes?
According to Point2Homes, Mexico remained the most popular country for Americans looking to buy abroad.
Canada and Costa Rica rounded out the top three.
Puerto Rico (we know it's a U.S. territory but it still made the list) came in at number four followed by Belize.
Canada saw a decrease in activity from last year — in large part, part because home prices in both major cities like Vancouver and popular vacation destinations have been rising at unprecedented rates over the last two years.
Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, meanwhile, saw an increase in searches by a respective 17% and 18%. Belize, Panama and the Bahamas all placed within the top ten of the most sought-after places for Americans to buy a home.
"The second half of 2020 — and especially the beginning of 2021 — saw Americans jump at the opportunity to buy a vacation home abroad," reads the report. "Searches for keywords like 'homes for sale in Puerto Rico,' 'Puerto Vallarta homes,' and 'condos for sale' in Costa Rica and Belize took off."
What's The Real Estate Investment Trend Here?
With the exception of Canada (an average single-family home in the country costs nearly double what it does in the US), many of the countries on this list have a few obvious things in common: sun, beaches and significantly cheaper real estate.
Puerto Rico is also especially attractive for those starting businesses, and cryptocurrency related ones in particular, as the corporate tax for companies on the island is 4% compared to 21% on the mainland U.S.
But while comparatively low real estate prices can allow some Americans and Canadians to invest and make their working-by-the-beach dream a reality, such a trend on a widespread level can also create contribute to inequality.
Even in American states like Hawaii, local residents report being priced out of neighborhoods they've lived in for decades by an influx of out-of-state residents with high salaries.
"Ideally we want to be building one Puerto Rico -- not one Puerto Rico for new residents and another one for local business leaders," Carlos Fontan, director of incentives at Puerto Rico's Department of Economic Development and Commerce, told Bloomberg in December 2021.