Fueled by a substantial increase in sales dollar volume from Canadian buyers, foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate skyrocketed to a new high, as transactions grew in each of the top five countries where buyers originated.
This is according to an annual survey of residential purchases from international buyers released today by the National Association of Realtors ®, which also revealed that nearly half of all foreign sales were in three states: Florida, California and Texas.
NAR’s 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, found that between April 2016 and March 2017, foreign buyers and recent immigrants purchased $153.0 billion of residential property, which is a 49 percent jump from 2016 ($102.6 billion) and surpasses 2015 ($103.9 billion) as the new survey high1. Overall, 284,455 U.S. properties were bought by foreign buyers (up 32 percent from 2016), and purchases accounted for 10 percent of the dollar volume of existing-home sales (8 percent in 2016).
“The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”
Although China maintained its top position in sales dollar volume for the fourth straight year, the significant rise in foreign investment in the survey came from a massive hike in activity from Canadian buyers. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion in sales ($11.2 billion in 2015), transactions from Canadians this year totaled $19.0 billion – a new high for Canada.
Yun attributes this notable rise in activity to Canadians opting to buy property in U.S. markets that are expensive but still more affordable than in their native land. While much of the U.S. continues to see fast price growth, home price gains in many cities in Canada have been steeper, especially in Vancouver and Toronto.
“Inventory shortages continue to drive up U.S. home values, but prices in five countries, including Canada, experienced even quicker appreciation2,” said Yun. “Some of the acceleration in foreign purchases over the past year appears to come from the combination of more affordable property choices in the U.S. and foreigners deciding to buy now knowing that any further weakening of their local currency against the dollar will make buying more expensive in the future.”
Foreign buyers typically paid $302,290, which was a 9.0 percent increase from the median sales price in the 2016 survey ($277,380) and above the sales price of all existing homes sold during the same period ($235,792). Approximately 10 percent of foreign buyers paid over $1 million, and 44 percent of transactions were all-cash purchases (50 percent in 2016).
Foreign sales rise in top five countries; three states account for nearly half of all purchases
Buyers from China exceeded all countries by dollar volume of sales at $31.7 billion, which was up from last year’s survey ($27.3 billion) and topped 2015 ($28.6 billion) as the new survey high. Chinese buyers also purchased the most housing units for the third consecutive year (40,572; up from 29,195 in 2016).
Rounding out the top five, the sales dollar volume from buyers in Canada ($19.0 billion), the United Kingdom ($9.5 billion), Mexico ($9.3 billion) and India ($7.8 billion) all increased from their levels one year ago.
This year’s survey once again revealed that foreign buying activity is mostly confined to three states, as Florida (22 percent), California (12 percent) and Texas (12 percent) maintained their position as the top destinations for foreigners, followed by New Jersey and Arizona (each at 4 percent). Florida was the most popular state for Canadian buyers, Chinese buyers mostly chose California, and Texas was the preferred state for Mexican buyers.
Sales to resident foreigners and non-residents each reach new peak
The upswing in foreign investment came from both recent immigrants and non-resident foreign buyers as each increased substantially to new highs. Sales to foreigners residing in the U.S. reached $78.1 billion (up 32 percent from 2016) and non-resident foreign sales spiked to $74.9 billion (up 72 percent from 2016).
“Although non-resident foreign purchases climbed over the past year, it appears much of the activity occurred during the second half of 2016,” said Yun. “Realtors® in some markets are reporting that the effect of tighter regulations on capital outflows in China and weaker currencies in Canada and the U.K. have somewhat cooled non-resident foreign buyer interest in early 2017.”
Looking ahead, Yun believes the gradually expanding U.S. and global economies should keep foreign buyer demand at a robust level. However, it remains to be seen if both the shortage of homes for sale and economic and political headwinds end up curbing sales activity to foreigners.
“Stricter foreign government regulations and the current uncertainty on policy surrounding U.S. immigration and international trade policy could very well lead to a slowdown in foreign investment,” said Yun.
NAR’s 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, conducted April 10 through May 1, surveyed a sample of Realtors® to measure the share of U.S. residential real estate sales to international clients, and to provide a profile of the origin, destination, and buying preferences of international clients, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by Realtors® in serving foreign clients. The survey presents information about transactions with international clients during the 12-month period between April 2016 and March 2017. A total of 5,998 Realtors® responded to the 2017 survey.