MIAMI – Nov. 1, 2013 – Interest in single-family homes from corporate buyers such as equity firms has been a major factor in moving Florida’s residential real estate market out the recessionary doldrums.
But there’s been another big source of demand for Florida residences: In 2012, one in five sales of Florida homes was to a nonresident foreigner, according to a March report from the National Association of Realtors. Florida accounted for 23 percent of all U.S. home sales to foreigners, leading the nation in sales to international buyers.
International interest is still focused on southeast Florida – close to one-third of all international home sales in Florida are in Miami, thanks to an influx of Brazilians, Venezuelans and Argentines. The Fort Lauderdale and Orlando markets are a distant second and third, accounting for 11.6 percent and 8.9 percent of sales to international buyers.
But interest from foreign buyers is spreading throughout the state as Florida real estate brokers actively market their regions overseas. In July, Teresa Witte, sales manager for RE/MAX Platinum Realty’s new global new homes division in Sarasota, traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil, on behalf of three builders to promote home buying in southwest and central Florida.
The response was enthusiastic, says Witte. “They were really interested. They’ve heard about the Gulf of Mexico, but they’ve never been here.”
Most potential foreign buyers, she says, are familiar with Miami Beach and Orlando because they’ve vacationed there, says Witte, but “they don’t have the time to explore other areas. I think it’s up to us to take these areas to them.” She’s on the marketing trail again, with stops planned in the U.K., followed by Toronto, Russia and Colombia.
Home sales to foreigners have proved a boon not just to brokers, but also to local property tax receipts in counties hit hard by the recession. According to Bloomberg News, property assessments in the 10 counties that have had the largest influx of international cash have risen nearly twice as fast as assessments in the rest of the state.
Also benefiting are businesses like Moneycorp, a London-based provider of foreign currency exchange services, which helps foreigners - most of whom pay cash - transfer their currencies into dollars.
“We deal with lots of Germans and Canadians on the southwest coast of Florida. Down in Miami and central Florida, we’re seeing lots of Brazilian activity,” says Kelly Cutchin, USA country manager for Moneycorp.
International buyers’ top states
Florida: 23 percent of U.S. total
California: 17 percent
Arizona: 9 percent
Texas: 9 percent
Canada: 39 percent of all foreign buyers
Latin America/Caribbean: 29 percent
Europe: 23 percent
Asia/Oceania: 6 percent
Africa/Middle East: 4 percent
© 2013 Trend Magazine Inc., Keller, Amy.