NEW YORK (MainStreet) Two words explain why you are priced out of the real estate market, especially in Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando and New York City.
That's according to a startling report from the National Association of Realtors that charted a huge increase in the volume of foreign money chasing U.S. real estate. In the period April 2013 through March 2014, NAR said foreigners pumped $92.2 billion into U.S. homes. That's sharply up from $68.2 billion in the year before period.
Explained NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc. Realtors in Dayton, Ohio: "Foreign buyers are being enticed to U.S. real estate because of what they recognize as attractive prices, economic stability and an incredible opportunity for investment in their future."
Foreigners are quite specific about what interests them. Forget Cleveland or Kansas City. The Heartland does not entice them. What does? The most popular state by far for foreign buyers is Florida, which claimed 23% of the international money. California placed second at 14%. Texas was third at 12%. Arizona ranked fourth at 6%.
As for city-specific searching, NAR said that foreigners are focused on these five towns: Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, Orlando and New York City.
This will not be a news flash to many. New Yorkers ferociously grumble about foreigners - usually said to be Chinese or Russians - gobbling up prime Manhattan condominiums. In Miami Beach, if anything, the xenophobia is louder because, complain locals, they are priced out of anywhere they want to live.
That is fact. You do not want to go head-to-head against international buyers, for two reasons. The first is that today's housing prices - healing as they are - still look low compared to cities like Hong Kong or London or Paris.
The second: foreign buyers generally are all cash buyers. Said the NAR: "International buyers are more likely to make all-cash purchases when compared to domestic buyers. In 2014, nearly 60% of reported international transactions were all cash." Partly that's because they frequently cannot qualify for a mortgage here - lacking a U.S. credit history it is close to impossible, just as it would be close to impossible for a U.S. buyer to qualify for a mortgage in Hong Kong. Yet partly it is because they still see U.S. property as a safe harbor for dumping cash.
The foreigners also simply have more money. The mean purchase price for their property is $396,000, per NAR. For domestic buyers, it is $247,000.
Said the NAR in its report: "International buying activity apparently was bolstered by continued rising affluence in China, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. In addition, the appreciation of the Chinese yuan and the British pound also made the purchase of U.S. property increasingly affordable for residents of those countries."
Who are these buyers? NAR said five countries produce the most: Canada, China, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom.
More specifically, NAR noted: "Canada was the top source of international clients in terms of transactions volume, but China accounted for the largest sales dollar volume because of the higher average price of properties purchased by Chinese buyers. Chinese buyers tended to buy properties in higher-priced markets such as California, Washington, and New York, while Canadians bought in lower-priced markets such as Florida and Arizona."
As for what foreigners plan to do with their new digs, the answers are what you would expect. Per the NAR: "About 42% of reported international transactions were intended for primary residences. International students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, recent immigrants, and professional and managerial employees of businesses and institutions who are in the U.S. on a temporary but extended visit may plan on using the property year round for primary residence."
Regarding the rest, non-resident foreigners are permitted only to stay six months in a year, "so these international buyers generally expect to use the property for vacation/rental purposes and as an investment," said NAR.
The worse news: nobody sees an end in sight for this foreign invasion. As long as U.S. home prices look cheap compared to other global metros and as long as foreign economies - read China and Canada - remain buoyant, foreign buyers will come here.
--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet