Favorable exchange rates, global economic uncertainty, and a desire for nice weather and scenery are driving more international buyers to purchase properties in the United States. How to serve the needs of those buyers was the subject of several presentations at the Global Business & Alliances Committee Wednesday morning during the 2013 Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.
Seven percent of all U.S. residential properties sold last year were purchased by foreign consumers, according to the National Association of REALTORSÂ®' Profile of International Home Buying Activity. Moreover, that research found that 27 percent of REALTORSÂ® worked with at least one international buyer in 2012.
Additionally, there are nearly 2 million international listings from 38 countries on realtor.comÂ® right now, and the site gets about 1 million international unique visitors per month, said Eleonore Rojas, vice president and principal product manager of realtor.comÂ®.
In exploring the U.S. markets that foreign nationals were searching, some surprises came up, Rojas said. As expected, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami were widely popular, but metro areas such as Colorado Springs, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Detroit also ranked high for certain countries.
"Global is more local than you think," Rojas said. "Having knowledge of this data will change the way you do business."
One factor that could accelerate the international buyers trend is the passage of an immigration reform bill in Congress. NAR Senior Regulatory Policy Representative Russell Riggs provided a brief update on the legislation authored by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" in the Senate. That bill, which is in the review process right now, encourages and supports tourism and makes the EB-5 visa program for immigrant investors permanent.
"[NAR] wants to make sure visa opportunities are expanded, particularly in the H-2B area [for temporary foreign workers]," Riggs said.
However, the legislation has a long way to go before passage, he added.
"This is a tough bill," Riggs said. "If it passes the Senate, it still has to get through the House, and they're working on their own legislation. We are monitoring this carefully."
- Brian Summerfield, REALTORÂ® Magazine