Global Real Estate Innovations
Real estate agents are
increasingly courting foreigners to buy homes in the USA — hiring
agents fluent in other languages, marketing to foreign buyers and in
some cases, offering to pay the airfare and hotel bills of foreign
shoppers who buy a home.
agents are eager to win the business of foreign investors who are
swooping in to buy property in the USA as home prices plummet and the
dollar's weak value produces eye-popping deals for international buyers.
Because of the sinking value of the U.S. dollar relative to other
currencies, a home bought by a foreigner comes with a discount averaging
30%, the National Association of Realtors estimates. Between April 2006
and April 2007, about 30% of foreign buyers came from Europe, according
to an NAR survey.
Nearly one-third of Realtors reported in that survey having had business
with foreign buyers. Activity is especially busy in affluent cities such
as New York and in warm-weather vacation destinations such as Miami and
San Diego. Many of these investors, Realtors say, are buying homes as
these prices, you can't say no," says Monique Burger of Belgium, who's
buying a Miami Beach vacation condo for $270,000. "With the low dollar
against the euro, it helps. And the low housing prices made us want to
Agents are seizing the opportunity:
New York, real estate agent Jacky Teplitzky's firm has staff lawyers who
specialize in foreign buyers. Sales to foreigners jumped from 10% of her
business to nearly 25% in the past year or so.
Teplitzky says she's seeing a surge in interest, especially from
Britain, Italy, Spain and Russia. In April, an Italian buyer in town for
Easter took just 48 hours to buy a $3.8 million two-bedroom condo.
Teplitzky recently sold $30 million worth of property to Russians who
are using the homes as pieds-à-terre.
"We're a bargain right now for foreign buyers," she says. "A lot of them
looked two or three years ago and found themselves in too crazy a
•Jenny Pruitt & Associates, Atlanta-based Realtors, is wooing foreign
clients by maintaining agents who speak such languages as Dutch, Korean,
Farsi and Arabic. A search function on its website can help locate a
foreign-language-speaking agent. Recently, the agency sold a $2.2
million listing to a British couple who were amazed at the value for the
price. The couple had upgraded from a 2,000-square-foot flat in London
to a 9,000-square-foot home in Atlanta.
Wohlfarth & Associates, a New York firm, Rick Wohlfarth is traveling
regularly to Brazil to help link buyers with properties, often ranging
in price from $5 million to $15 million. Foreign buyers make up about
20% of sales.
"People are looking to diversify their investments," Wohlfarth says.
"Buying power has increased tremendously."
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