JTHS Council of the MIAMI Association of REALTORS - Jupiter, Tequesta, Hope Sound



Foreign Buyers Strengthen Florida, South Florida Real Estate Market and Economy

by | Jul 08, 2014

International Home Buying Activity in Florida Expected to Remain Strong

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A new report by Florida TaxWatch confirms the significant impact of foreign real estate buyers in Florida and South Florida and predicts the future demand from this market segment. Foreign buyers have undoubtedly strengthened the Florida housing market and economy – and helped the South Florida market recover from the downturn faster and stronger than any other. Better understanding purchases by international buyers helps businesses and policymakers make decisions that will help diversify and stabilize Florida's economy even further.

The Florida TaxWatch report analyzes data for the most recent five years of sales of Florida homes to non-resident international buyers, using the yearly "profile of International Home Buyers in Florida," produced by the National Association of Realtors. International buyers in Florida accounted for almost $30 billion in purchases over the past three years and is an important component of the housing markets in various metropolitan areas in the state and more prominently in Miami.

Florida is consistently the state with the largest share of real estate sales to international citizens. Within the state, South Florida is the favorite among foreign buyers looking for cultural affinity and an exciting lifestyle unparalleled anywhere else in the U.S. - and at affordable prices.

Florida has long been dependent on its real estate market for growth and stability, as shown in a recent Florida TaxWatch report detailing the impact of housing starts on the Florida economy. International buyers look at the U.S. market as a place where their property rights are secure, and often times invest in a property for both personal enjoyment as well as the investment income.

International Homebuyers' Impact on Florida's Economy

International purchasers of Florida homes have also provide substantial amounts of liquidity to the housing market, especially during times of uncertainty, according to Florida TaxWatch. Over the last five years, all cash sales have accounted for more than 60 percent of total sales in South Florida. In May, cash sales dropped to 55 percent but remain well above the national average of 30 percent. Nearly 90 percent of international buyers, most of whom are not used to financing properties in their home countries, pay all cash when purchasing real estate in the U.S.

The amount of purchases by internationals in Florida has been substantial in recent years, peaking at 36,152 during the period from 2008-2009. A majority of these purchases were cash transactions at a time when credit was difficult to come by for many Floridians, and others around the globe.

The liquidity provided by international buyers benefits Florida homeowners, banks, and state tax collections, thanks to increased real estate sales, the documentary stamp tax revenues that come with those sales, and the economic impact of the new owners coming into the state.

Additionally, the vast majority of international home buyers do not use Florida's schools or social services (such as Medicaid and Medicare), and they do not qualify for homestead exemptions, which means that their homes are taxed at full and ad valorem rates.

Where Do Most International Buyers Originate?

The report emphasizes that certain variables may affect purchases such as currency controls and devaluation, political stability, and the other country-specific variables. For example, there are often concerns about oil pricing, a great international currency earner of the past for Canada. Given the volatility in oil markets, the Canadian Dollar ($CAD) is heavily affected as worldwide oil prices change.

While Canada had been the foreign country that provided the most purchasers of Florida homes, in 2013 buyers from Latin America and the Caribbean countries as a group were the largest, coming in at slightly more than 32 percent. Canadian buyers from European countries accounted for 26.6 percent. These three groups account for 88.3 percent of the purchases of Florida homes by international buyers.

The top international purchasers of Florida home come from Canada, the U.K., Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, China, Colombia, France, Peru, and Italy. Purchasers from Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, China, Colombia, and Peru have generally been increasing since 2008. Substantial decreases are reported for the U.K., and moderate decreases from Germany have occurred in that span.

Foreign Buyers Expected to Continue to Fuel Florida Housing Market, Economy

Florida TaxWatch, using a proprietary stochastic forecasting model, expects a continuation of international home purchasing activity in Florida. An estimated more than 60,000 purchases by non-resident internationals are expected to be transacted during the 2014 through 2016 calendar years. These purchases, along with the associated purchases of furniture and other household goods, entertainment spending, and travel will create jobs that employ Floridians.

Top variables impacting international homebuyers include:

Foreign Buyer Income
Of the top 10 countries who citizens purchase Florida homes, only the Venezuelan economy is predicted to have negative GDP growth, and that economy has expected two-year decrease in GDP. The countries that show the most promise for increasing purchase in Florida are Peru and Colombia – both with growing shares of the market. As Brazil returns to higher growth rates in the future one would expect further increases in market share from Brazilians purchasing homes in South Florida.

Exchange Rates
The level of the exchange rate versus the U.S. dollar is an important part of the relative price that international purchasers pay for homes in Florida. Both French and German purchasers will benefit from strength in the Euro versus last year, as will the British Pound. The largest losers of purchasing power would be Argentines and Venezuelans who were holding their home currencies and who had not already converted to U.S. dollars.

Political and Economic Uncertainty
While difficult to predict, perceived instability in a home country could cause foreign nationals to purchase a Florida home as a portfolio diversification, as a hedge against potential home currency devaluation, or as a place to have secure property rights as a homeowner in the face of rising uncertainty in their home country.

International Visitor Numbers
The number of visitors from a country can be an indication of ease of travel to Florida, something very likely important to potential home purchasers.
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