A survey released Monday showed that the six-year slide in US housing prices, coupled with the rising value of some foreign currencies and continued instability in Europe, is fueling a property-buying binge in the US by wealthy foreigners.Â
Nationwide, international buyers spent $82.5 billion on residential real estate in the 12-month period that ended in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. That was up by 24 percent from the $66.4 billion spent in the same period that ended March 2011 and accounted for nearly 8.9 percent of the $928 billion spent on residential real estate during that span.Â
The survey showed that around 55 percent of all buyers came from five countries: Canada, China, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom. Canadians accounted for nearly one quarter of all foreign sales. Around half of foreign buyers are recent immigrants or temporary visa holders, while the remainder have permanent residences outside of the US and spend fewer than six months each year in the US.Â
Five states, meanwhile, accounted for around 55 percent of all foreign buyers' sales: Florida, California, Texas, Arizona and New York.Â
Few markets are benefiting from the influx of foreign money as much as hard-hit Florida, where South Americans, Canadians and Europeans have resuscitated entire luxury developments that were practically abandoned when the housing bubble popped five years ago.Â
"They're buying them two and three at a time and paying cash," said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Century 21 and Coldwell Banker brands. Florida accounted for 26 percent of all foreign sales, down slightly from 31 percent in 2011 but still by far the largest destination for international buyers.Â
In downtown Miami, a supply of some 25,000 luxury condos three years ago has been whittled down to just a few thousand. Home prices in Miami, after falling by 50 percent from their 2006 peak, have turned up in recent months and were 2.5 percent above their year-earlier level in March, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home-price index.